Piano Sonatas

Sonata in D major H.XVI:33
Sonata in E minor H.XVI:34
Sonata in G major H.XVI:39
Sonata in D major H.XVI:19

Inna Heifetz

Catalog #S022569CD [DDD]

Program Notes

The perfected Classical style of the late eighteenth century owes more to Franz Joseph Haydn than to anyone else. He assimilated the past, enriching the spare mid-eighteenth century style with elements of the late Baroque and absorbing the Romantic impulses of the Empfindsamkeit (sentimental style) and the "storm-and-stress" movements. His achievement was original and complete. His personal development was long and laborious, marked by several emotional and stylistic crises. His art is characterized by the union of sophistication with honest craftsmanship, purity of intention, and a spiritual contact with the life of the common people from whom he has sprung.

Haydn may be seen as the first truly universal composer of modern times. After his death, however, the more obviously romantic, and tragic, biography of his friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart captured the general imagination; and the record of Haydn's life, thought to be somewhat hum-drum, was considered of less interest. But how Haydn lived and how he made the most of the opportunities offered to him, and how he opened up new horizons, is a most exciting story. For it is the story of a man whose genius grew out of perseverance, hard work, and punctuality. He was respected by members of all social classes, and admired in many lands. His fame not only spread throughout Europe but also across Atlantic, and the popularity of his symphonies and The Creation was a strong and vital influence on the development of musical life in the United States.

The composer who perfected the early symphonic form and invented the modern string quartet also left his indelible mark on the sonata. During fifty years of inspired creative effort, Haydn experimented constantly with the sonata form, adding a clear thematic structure to the tonal design inherited from earlier composers. In his early years he was content to write tuneful music that had little or no development. But as he became familiar with the work of C.P.E. Bach, as his vision became bigger and his technique more encompassing, he refined the sonata principle better than any other composer at the time. Haydn's piano sonatas enjoyed great popularity during the latter part of the eighteenth century, but in the early years of the nineteenth century they were overshadowed by Mozart's and Beethoven's keyboard music.

Sonata H.XVI:19 in D major is notable among sonatas of the late 1760s evidencing the influence of C.P.E. Bach on Haydn at this time. Immediately after 1772 Haydn entered into a new period of craftsmanship emerging from a critical phase in his development as a composer. The minor keys, the passionate accents, the experiments in form and expression of the preceding period now give way to the smooth, assured, and brilliant works of predominantly cheerful, robust character. The transformation may be attributed to the composer's resolve to write "not so much for learned ears". Sonatas H.XVI:33 in D major, H.XVI:34 in E minor, and H.XVI:39 in G major are written during this period and show a general relaxation and lightening of style.

Haydn was one of the most prolific composers in history. He wrote 52 piano sonatas, 104 symphonies, 83 string quartets, many concertos, plenty of chamber music, many choral works, 23 operas, 4 oratorios, and many Masses.


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