Tag Archives: Keyboard Sonatas

Geoffrey Lancaster (fortepiano)

Sonatas Nos 32 in G minor, 31 in A flat and 33 in C minor

TPT: 66’22”

Tall Poppies TPT: 66’22”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


To listen to Geoffrey Lancaster playing Haydn on the fortepiano is to be drawn ineluctably into the sound and mood world of the composer. And that was very much the case at a series of recitals that Lancaster gave in Perth recently.


 Before listening to the first of a projected series of compact disc recordings devoted to Haydn’s complete keyboard sonatas, I wondered to what extent that sense of spontaneity that made his live recitals so extraordinarily satisfying would be captured on disc. Would the freshness and vitality transfer successfully to recordings?


Any concerns I might have had on this point evaporated within moments. There is a wonderful sense of spontaneity here – and it is abundantly in evidence. Indeed, the playing on this CD is so ‘alive’ that listening to it provides that additional frisson one associates primarily with  experiencing a profound musical interpretation in the flesh, as it were.


Over the years, I have lost count of the times I’ve heard Lancaster in recital. Hopefully, this recording and those to follow will allow listeners living far from the main routes of the international concert circuit to experience the magic of Lancaster’s interpretative insights.


Just as in his recent recitals in Perth, each of the sonatas here is prefaced by a short prelude which, Lancaster explained to the audience, was the common practice in recital in Haydn’s day.


Lancaster provides his own prelude to the Sonata No 32 in G minor but the other two sonatas – Sonata No 31 and Sonata No33 – are prefaced by preludes composed by Muzio Clementi.


As a whole, this recording is pure delight. Make a point of adding it to your CD collection; it will enrich your music life.



Geoffrey Lancaster (fortepiano)



Eileen Joyce Studio, UWA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Some time ago, during a TV interview, famed mezzo Cecilia Bartoli was asked whether she thought she had been touched by the finger of God. Modestly, she said she doubted it  –  but, tongue in cheek – she conceded that the Lord might possibly have waved ‘hullo’ from a distance.


After listening to Geoffrey Lancaster’s artistry in this series of Haydn  recitals, I’d like to think that God Almighty would not only have waved to him but invited him in for afternoon tea.


Perhaps once in a generation, sometimes even less frequently, there’s an opportunity to hear Haydn’s complete keyboard sonatas. Perth concertgoers were offered this rare opportunity in July.


Geoffrey Lancaster is one of the very few fortepianists anywhere in the world to have taken on this immense challenge. And in these recitals, it was at once apparent that he has in abundance those crucial attributes essential to embark on so vast a musical enterprise: fearless, superbly educated fingers, an intellect of highest order, rare expressive insights – and the staying power of a primed athlete.


Not the least of the many delights of the sonatas (more than fifty) was Lancaster’s linking commentary deriving from a lifetime’s consideration of these wonderful but often neglected  keyboard gems. Lancaster’s knowledge of the circumstances surrounding each of these gems is encyclopaedic.


As well, in the style of Haydn’s day, the performance of each sonata was prefaced by a brief prelude by the performer: an extemporaneous flourish here, a little series of rapid arabesques there, some scales up and down the keyboard – and then the magic of Haydn interpreted by a keyboard master at the height of his powers.


Rapid passagework that called strings of perfectly matched pearls to mind – and the extraordinary richness of Lancaster’s ornamentation of the music – were two only of the many factors he employed to expound Haydn’s idiosyncratic musical argument in the most persuasive and satisfying ways.  


I noticed a few members of the audience closely following Lancaster’s performances in the printed score and scribbling comments in the margins, doubtless interpretative insights of a valuable sort to pass on to pupils.


It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this series. The chances of encountering these works here again soon as a cycle, are very, very small. In over fifty years of busy concertgoing, this has been the first opportunity I’ve had to listen to many of these extraordinary works in a single series.


Currently, Lancaster is recording the Haydn cycle of sonatas for the Tall Poppies label. 




Keyboard Sonatas (Domenico Cimarosa) Volume 1

557541bk Kelemen 3+3 

Victor Sangiorgio (piano)

Naxos 8.570718

TPT: 66’49”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


During the interval at a symphony concert recently, I conducted an impromptu mini-poll. What do you know about Cimarosa, I asked a number of concertgoers at random. Cimarosa? In many cases, the response was a blank look. If I’d posed the same question of opera goers, there would almost certainly have been a more positive response. Cimarosa? Isn’t he the one who wrote Il Matrimonio Segreto? Yes, it is and, an uncommonly industrious man, he turned out operas at the drop of a hat – and had them performed across Europe. His operatic output was colossal; he wrote no fewer than 60, of which nowadays it is only The Secret Marriage that gets anything like regular performance.


Understandably, this hardworking opera composer wouldn’t have had much spare time to indulge his creativity in other directions. Yet, in addition to his operatic labours, the industrious Cimarosa somehow found the time to write a great deal of music for the keyboard which, until very recently, has had very little exposure. It’s been one of music’s better kept secrets.


In the days of 78 rpm shellac gramophone discs, each of which might run for up to, say, 4 minutes, the chances of any company putting the complete Cimarosa sonatas on records would have been remote.  In the early decades of the 20th century, many, if not most, families might have possessed a very small record collection. Used again and again, dust and other detritus would settle in the groove to provide an extraneous repertoire of hisses, crackles and pops, all accepted in those days as part of the miracle of being able to turn on music at any time of the day or night. And when wind-up gramophones gave way to electrically powered turntables, it seemed as if the ultimate way of experiencing recorded music had arrived.


Along the way, LP records, then cassette tapes, were touted as the ultimate in music-reproduction finesse and unlikely ever to be surpassed. The LP, in particular, was rich in possibility in that, for the first time, one could listen, uninterrupted, to, say, half a symphony before needing to put the flipside on the turntable. It was this that paved the way to current conditions where compact discs, with their significantly longer run-times, rule the roost, with recordings that provide uninterrupted listening of an hour or even more – as on this CD which contains just under 67 minutes’ worth of keyboard music.


But while CDs are the currently the favoured means for recording works of great length, it is only for the present. Doubtless in some laboratory or perhaps a shed in a suburban backyard somewhere, the next generation of recording techniques is about to be born, to be hailed as the ultimate until it, too, is overtaken by some other electronic miracle.


Until that happens – and it will – let’s make the most of compact disc recordings which have opened enticing new vistas for those seeking the rare and the novel. One of the most charm-laden compilations now available is this first volume of Cimarosa sonatas played by Victor Sangiorgio.


There are fifty tracks making up eighteen sonatas, the first of a series devoted to the complete sonatas of Cimarosa. Although the works vary in quality, even the least of them is worth listening to – and a great deal of that attraction derives from the musicality and musicianship that Victor Sangiorgio brings to every moment of this recording.


Sangiorgio is that rarity: a musician who scrupulously avoids interposing himself between composer and listener. In each of these tracks, he allows the music to speak for itself; it is like a golden thread through this compilation.


In the opening movement of the Sonata in A, R2 Sangiorgio is rivetingly brilliant.

Contrasting tonal colours are a feature of the second movement which leads into a gracefully stated finale. In Sonata in D, R3 (most of this compilation is in the major mode) busily nimble, buoyant note streams give way to fanfare-like figurations and a finale with an impeccably stated left hand line.  And the gigue with which Sonata in D, R5 draws to a close is a model of clarity and refulgent sound.


Whilst these works are, for the most part, eminently listenable, they are not of any particular depth or profundity. So it is immensely to the credit of Victor Sangiorgio that his interpretations are so finely realised that, for the duration of most of these little works, the sonatas sound more significant than they in fact are – and that represents a very considerable feat of musicianship.


There’s much musical finesse here. Savour it: there’s more to come from Sangiorgio – and from Naxos which does invaluable work in placing largely forgotten music such as this on compact disc.