Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0643
Pianist Magazine, February 2022
5 star review *****
McCawley’s playing is impressively articulated, direct and unaffected, albeit seasoned with subtle colourings and occasional light pedalling. There’s sadness, drama and even comedy here; in fact, one imagines, all the variety of court life as witnessed by Haydn, court composer.
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BBC Music Magazine, January 2022
This latest release in Leon McCawley’s highly praised Haydn sonatas series centres on three of the diversely inventive set of six he published in 1780.
McCawley’s choices of tempos are unfailingly convincing, his articulation is lucid, crisp and full of contained vitality and he finds a touching pathos in such minor key movements as the C minor Siciliana of No. 51. This is playing that makes maximal musical sense of Haydn’s notations unalloyed by exaggeration or mannerism.
Performance **** Recording ****
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International Piano, December 2021
Leon McCawley’s cycle of Haydn piano sonatas is turning into a major event. This fourth volume sums up the core strengths of the series: imaginative programming and a superb sense of style, to the extent that Haydn’s notoriously thin textures in some earlier works come across as entirely natural- satisfying rather than skeletal. Try the Andante or the Menuet from the G major Hob XVI:8 (the very first keyboard sonata by Haydn- gentle, noble and altogether more divertimento than sonata).
Juxtaposing the early with the much later A-flat sonata (Hob XVI:43) shows just how far Haydn took this form. McCawley’s ultra-tight dotted rhythms and acciaccaturas bring vitality to its musical surface. Meanwhile, his reading of the remarkable C-sharp minor Sonata draws out Haydn’s modernity.
There is real freshness to McCawley’s playing throughout, concomitant with a sense of Haydn’s delight in playing with form. Captured in superb sound, this is one of McCawley’s finest discs to date.
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Pianodao, 30th November 2021
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
There have been some fine recordings of Haydn in more recent years, too, notably from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yevgeny Sudbin and Paul Lewis, but none so far that have compelled me to loosen my grip on my beloved McCabe set. Until now.
SOMM have just released the fourth volume in British pianist Leon McCawley’s ongoing cycle, and in my view it is shaping up to be a new milestone, The One to go for in this increasingly populated field…
The latest instalment in this ongoing cycle was recorded at The Menuhin Hall, Stoke d’Abernon in December 2020, McCawley playing on a Steinway ‘D’ Concert Grand. Hardly the instrument that Haydn wrote for of course, so it is to McCawley’s immense credit that he brings to these performances the lightness of touch and classical sensibility that so many other pianists seem to miss.
With a palpable sense of vitality, elan and the good humour for which Haydn is famous, this is Haydn playing as it should be, and I cannot overstate how disappointingly rare this seems to be.
The sense of experimentation combined with playfulness is never far from the listeners mind, thanks to McCawley’s emotional intelligence, enthusiastic musicality and inquisitive wit interpreting these magnificent works.
For an object lesson, piano teachers and students need look no further than McCawley’s masterful delivery of the G major Sonata, a piece invariably found in elementary anthologies (around UK Grade 2), but performed here with an eloquence and musical imagination that is light-years away beyond that suggested by stale expectations.
That so little distinguishes this modest work from the diploma-level Sonatas elsewhere on the disc speaks to the artistry of McCawley, and his dedication to presenting the music with equality, conviction and love from start to finish.
Full review HERE