More Haydn From John O’Conor

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 10

The stylish command and intelligent musicality distinguishing John O’Conor’s previous Steinway & Sons Haydn disc extends to this well-engineered follow-up release, even if certain performances succeed more than others. He brings out the D major sonata Allegro’s inherent wit by the subtle variety with which he articulates the ornaments. The slow movement’s Handelian grandeur matches that of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s recording, but with greater animation. O’Conor’s inventive embellishments make up for his slightly sedate Presto finale.

Like Emanuel Ax, O’Conor favors a measured approach to the E-flat sonata’s opening movement, yet he works too hard to differentiate detached and legato notes within phrases, whereas Ax is more flexible and mobile, and far less studied. Conversely, the Menuet finale seems a bit unsettled via O’Conor’s fast tempo, in contrast to Bavouzet’s ideal poise. While the C major XVI:50’s first-movement exposition can’t be faulted for balance and color, O’Conor’s right hand double notes are not quite so supple as those of Richter or Hamelin. But what deliciously pointed and timed scales in the C major XVI:35’s finale! Listeners who feel that Hamelin’s G major sonata Presto finale is too brash and brisk for comfort may prefer the varied inflections and breathing space that O’Conor’s more genial interpretation allows. Excellent sonics.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Haydn Sonatas (selected); Bavouzet (Chandos); Ax (Sony); Hamelin (Hyperion)

    Piano Sonata No. 50 in D major, Hob.XVI:37; No. 59 in E-Flat major, Hob.XVI:49; No. 60 in C major, Hob.XVI:50; No. 48 in C major, Hob.XVI:35; & No. 54 in G major, Hob.XVI:40
  • John O'Conor (piano)

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