Programme Notes

J. Haydn, Sonata in E minor, Hob. XVI/34

Franz Joseph Haydn’s keyboard sonatas span over 40 years of his creative life. The total is still uncertain since new ones are periodically discovered while others, especially early ones, are found to be mis-attributed or spurious; the number hovers around 60. Haydn composed his first sonatas, up to the early 1770s, for the harpsichord, as evidenced by the absence of dynamic markings. In 1773,Haydn published three sets of six sonatas for either piano or harpsichord that were characterized by florid ornamentation, distinguishing them from those of Mozart.

The Piano Sonata No. 53 in E minor, Hob XVI:34 is from three sonatas published in 1783. This work is the last minor-key sonata the composer wrote and, fittingly, is often seen as one of the first sonatas of Haydn’s later period.  With its syncopations, widely spaced Alberti basses, and double-note polyphony, the presto first movement is one of the more technically challenging movements in the Haydn sonatas. From the outset, its quasi-operatic dramatic intensity is established through the use of pithy phrases that are punctuated by fermatas. 

In the adagio middle movement, Haydn simulates the coloratura technique of a vocal virtuoso. The bassline accompaniment is sparse against the right hand’s aria-like phrases, which abound with filigree passagework, and drops out altogether in much of the development. Because of the relative independence of the treble line from the strictures of the bass, the performer is freer to experiment with judiciously timed rubato than is usual in Haydn. The movement ends rhetorically in the manner of a French ouverture, with sharp chords punctuated by rests; the tonality does not resolve, reverting to E minor in preparation for the finale.

The tempo marking of the last movement, Molto vivace, is a strange one for Haydn, who normally would use presto for a quick finale with a 2/4 key signature. The innocentemente indication that appears beneath the tempo designation may be a clue to Haydn’s intentions, implying that though the mood is “very lively,” the performer’s overall focus should be on earnestly underscoring the melody rather than on pure speed. In form, the movement is a set of double variations, minore followed by maggiore, one of Haydn’s favourite structural devices. In content, the treble briskly skips with childlike simplicity while the relentless Alberti basses impart a rustic energy. From critics-ear.com : Classical Music Reviews by Joseph Renouf

R. Schumann, Romance in F sharp major, Op. 28, No. 2

Among the most popular of Schumann's compositions for the piano is the F sharp major Romance of his op. 28 set, composed during the year leading up to his marriage to the virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck. The middle of a set of three, it is framed by a boisterous piece in B flat minor and a dry, contrapuntal finale. The F sharp Romance, however, is a superb example of Romantic lyricism, both intimate and profound. Written partially on three staves as opposed to the traditional two so as to make the melodic line more visible, its main melody is refreshingly simple in its construction. Even its harmonic accompaniment, venturing only briefly into the key of the dominant, is uncomplicated. Furthermore, the melody's limited compass as well as its placement in the middle of the harmony and its physical position on the keyboard allow it to sing out above the busy arpeggios that accompany it.


R. Schumann - F. Liszt, Widmung

This is a piano transcription by Liszt of one of Schumann's best-loved songs - written, as were so many of his Lieder - in 1840, the year Robert Schumann married Clara Wieck. The text is by Friederich Rückert and runs:


   "You are my soul, my heart, my ecstasy and my pain
    You are my world in which I live,
    my heaven into which I am suspended,
    my good spirit, my better self..."