Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs Haydn Concertos

Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet partners with conductor Gábor Tákacs-Nagy to create some truly individualistic performances of three Haydn concertos.

The use of a chamber orchestra (in this case, the Manchester Camerata) is a good one. Haydn’s keyboards concertos have much different character than Beethoven’s, and are well-suited to the smaller, more intimate sound of a chamber orchestra.

Cadenzas in the classical era were usually improvised. Over time, cadenzas were written out and formalized, and it’s the exception rather than the rule that an artist will provide his own cadenza.

Bavouzet is the exception, and his are exceptional. He’s not afraid to explore the music beyond the confines of the 18th Century. As he admits in the liner notes, his cadenza for the concerto no. 3 in F major, he pays tribute to Friederich Gulda “which… will raise a few eyebrows. Based on a little motive from the Aria and introducing the theme of the following movement, it contains harmonies that are anachronistic, to say the least!”

Perhaps so, but it also made me pay close attention as the familiar became the unfamiliar. And, I think, Bavouzet recaptures some of the listening experience of Haydn’s original audience. Back then, no one knew for sure what would happen during the cadenza — that was up to the skill and inspiration of the pianist.

Delivering that same experience over 300 years later is no mean feat. I applaud the imaginations of Bavouzet and Tákacs-Nagy to make these works sound fresh and exciting and, in a way, brand new.

Franz Joseph Haydn: Piano Concertos No. 3, 4, and 11
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano; Manchester Camerata: Gábor Tákacs-Nagy, conductor

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