Hässler: Keyboard Sonatas

Hässler: Keyboard Sonatas
Composer Johann Wilhelm Hässler
Artist Michele Benuzzi harpsichord
Format 4 CD
Cat. number 95225
EAN code 5028421952253
Release December 2016

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About this release

As Michele Benuzzi himself explains in a booklet-essay, the idea for this comprehensive collection came about through the success of his smaller, 1CD survey of harpsichord music by Johann Wilhelm Hässler on Brilliant Classics (BC94293), released in 2012. Since then he has gone on to record no less stimulating Baroque discoveries, of music by Josep Galles (BC95228) and Christoph Nichelmann (BC94809).

J.W. Hässler (1747-1822) is not to be confused with Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), whose music has hitherto been better nown and more frequently recorded. Born three years before the death of J.S. Bach, J.W. Hässler’s style embraces both the high-Baroque idiom and then the more edgy, episodic pre-Classical style of his sons, C.P.E. and W.F. Bach. Featured here are three published collections, published in Germany between 1776 and 1780 which reveal him moving from one into the other. Mozart was fairly scathing about him upon the occasion of their one encounter, in Dresden in 1789 – ‘incapable of executing a fugue properly’ – but five years later Hässler moved to St Petersburg where he secured local fame and a small fortune.

Benuzzi has chosen to illuminate the composer’s stylistic journey from polyphony and counterpoint to much more freely composed forms with different instruments. The six sonatas in the 1776 collection are played on a harpsichord, then the 1778 set on a fortepiano and the 1780 ‘Leichte Sonaten’ on a clavichord, both latter instruments based on originals by Gottfried Silbermann, Bach’s favourite maker of keyboard instruments.

Fanfare gave an ‘absolute highest recommendation’ to Benuzzi’s previous Hässler album. ‘He is the ideal interpreter to bring this music to light: highly sensitive to the gesture and emotion of the music, yet capable of carrying the musical narrative forward in telling fashion.’

The second instalment of the complete keyboard works by Johann Wilhelm Hässler.
Johann Wilhem Hässler lived from 1742 to 1822, the transition of the Baroque to the Classical era. His style embraces the Empfindsamkeit initiated by W.F. Bach and C.Ph.E. Bach and the heritage of J.S. Bach. These different idioms perfectly coexist to create his complex language, however, Hässler progressively abandoned the baroque heritage to develop a more modern style embracing a more classical aesthetic. The works on these 4 CD’s clearly mark the stylistic development of Hässler, from Baroque polyphony and counterpoint to the graceful classical language in Haydn style. Michele Benuzzi uses 4 different instruments, to achieve maximum variety and to follow the stylistic and instrumental progression of the works: harpsichord, clavichord, Silbermann piano and Broadwood piano. Benuzzi’s earlier recording of Hässler (BC94239) received excellent reviews: “a most intriguing composer..admirable performance” (Musicweb) Excellent liner notes by the artist.

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Fantasia in C Minor
  2. Sonata I in C Major: I. Vivace
  3. Sonata I in C Major: II. Adagio
  4. Sonata I in C Major: III. Allegro, ma non presto
  5. Sonata II in G Major: I. Con spirit
  6. Sonata II in G Major: II. Larghetto
  7. Sonata II in G Major: III. Presto
  8. Sonata III in B-Flat Major: I. Allegretto grazioso
  9. Sonata III in B-Flat Major: II. Minuetto I & II
  10. Sonata III in B-Flat Major: III. Allegro
  11. Sonata IV in D Major: I. Allegro di molto
  12. Sonata IV in D Major: II. Andante
  13. Sonata IV in D Major: III. Con brio
  14. Sonata V in F Major: I. Allegro assai
  15. Sonata V in F Major: II. Adagio è sostenuto
  16. Sonata V in F Major: III. Arietta con variazioni

Disk 2

  1. Sonata VI in A Minor: I. Poco allegro
  2. Sonata VI in A Minor: II. Largo
  3. Sonata VI in A Minor: III. Presto
  4. Sonata I in B-Flat Major: I. Allegro, ma non troppo
  5. Sonata I in B-Flat Major: II. Adagio
  6. Sonata I in B-Flat Major: III. Allegro assai
  7. Sonata II in A Major: I. —
  8. Sonata II in A Major: II. Adagio
  9. Sonata II in A Major: III. Scherzo – Allegro
  10. Sonata III in G Minor: I. Poco Allegro
  11. Sonata III in G Minor: II. Andantino, grazioso
  12. Sonata III in G Minor: III. Allegro di molto
  13. Sonata IV in C Major: I. Moderato
  14. Sonata IV in C Major: II. Adagio
  15. Sonata IV in C Major: III. Presto

Disk 3

  1. Sonata V in D Minor: I. —
  2. Sonata V in D Minor: II. Arioso
  3. Sonata V in D Minor: III. Presto
  4. Sonata VI in E-Flat Major: I. Poco allegro
  5. Sonata VI in E-Flat Major: II. Rondeau – Allegro
  6. Anhang: I. Fantasia
  7. Anhang: II. Das Glück in Verleumdung
  8. Anhang: III. Minuetto I & II
  9. Anhang: IV. Alla polacca
  10. Anhang: V. Rondeau
  11. Anhang: VI. Die Zukunft
  12. Anhang: VII. Minuetto I & II
  13. Anhang: VIII. Der Bauer
  14. Anhang: IX. Die Hoffnung
  15. Anhang: X. Selig, wer mit
  16. Sonata con violino in G Major: I. Andantino
  17. Sonata con violino in G Major: II. Allegro
  18. Prestissimo

Disk 4

  1. Sonata I in G Major: I. Un poco andante
  2. Sonata I in G Major: II. Adagio
  3. Sonata I in G Major: III. Allegro
  4. Sonata II in A Major: I. Tempo di minuetto
  5. Sonata II in A Major: II. Poco largo
  6. Sonata II in A Major: III. Allegro assai
  7. Sonata III in D Minor: I. Allegro con spirit
  8. Sonata III in D Minor: II. Adagio
  9. Sonata III in D Minor: III. Presto
  10. Sonata IV in B-Flat Major: I. Poco allegro
  11. Sonata IV in B-Flat Major: II. Poco adagio
  12. Sonata IV in B-Flat Major: III. Allegro
  13. Sonata V in F Major: I. Allegretto, con grazia
  14. Sonata V in F Major: II. Adagio e sostenuto
  15. Sonata V in F Major: III. Presto assai
  16. Sonata VI in C Major: I. Moderato
  17. Sonata VI in C Major: II. Presto