Nonesuch has issued Volume 5 in its series of Haydn piano music played by Gilbrt Kalish, and it is perhaps the richest installment so far. The disc (h-71379) contains four substantial sonatas, spanning a period of some three decades, from the mid-1760s to 1795, the year of the final symphonies for London: one in E-flat, numbered 29 in the late Christa Landon's Vienna Urtext Edition (XVI-45 in the earlier enumeration by Anthony van Hoboken); Landon 42 in G (Hob. XVI:27); Landon 45 in a (Hob. XVI:30) and Landon 60 in C (Hob. XVI:50).
From the first to the last, all of these sonatas offer abundant examples of Haydn's characteristic inventivesness -- his resource of fine tunes and his capacity to surprise us -- and his similarly characteristic wit. Kalish plays them all with the elegance to which he has accustomed us. His Baldwin is splendidly reproduced throughout the disc's generous 62 minutes, and, as before, the authoritative annotation by H. C. Robbins Landon is of real value in itself.
It is distressing to think that this outstanding series might not proceed further, but the appearance of Teresa Stern's name among the credits is a reminder that this was one of the seveal valuable projects initiated by her before her astounding "separation" fron Nonesuch last winter, and as such it does present the possibility of having come to a premature halt. One hopes it may be resumed before long, either on Nonesuch or some other label.
Another Haydn record also has been to the discography of the Guarneri Quartet on RCA. The two works performed on ARL1-3485 are the Quartet in D, Op. 20, No. 4, the best-known of the six so-called "Sun" Quartets, and the G minor, Op. 74, No. 3, known as "The Rider" or "The Horseman." These are, in the Guarneri tradition, efficient, somewhat dryish performances, certainly enjoyable enough in their own right but decidedly outclassed by the existing competition.
The Alban Berg Quartet of Vienna has given us a surpassingly persuasive account of Op. 74, No. 3, on Telefunken, and that marvelous performance is available in a choice of couplings (and prices): with Op. 76, No. 3 (the "Emperor"), on 6.41302 (cassette 4.41302), or with Mozart's K. 387 in G on the lowerpriced Aspekte AF6.42283. The Amadeus Quartet, in its recent Deutsche Grammophon set of the six works constituting Haydn's Opp. 71 and 74 (2709.090), is less vivid than the Berg, but far more stylish than the Guarneri. As for Op. 20, No. 4, it is much to be preferred in the Juilliard Quartet's recent recording of the entire Op. 20 set, one of the best things that group has given us in years (columbia M3-34593).
Two unexpected recordings of Dvorak's endearing and brilliant Smyphony No. 8 in G major have just appeared. One is a live recording by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Jose Serebrier (RCA ARLI-3550), the other a studio product by the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan (Angel SZ-37686). Like the Guarneri's Haydn, both of these are enjoyable, but neither would be a first choice.
The Sydney Symphony, on the evidence offered here, must be a very good orchestra -- and its audience is extremely well behaved. Serebrier's interpretation, as indicated in his notes, is more or less modeled after George Szell's, but with more indulgences in the way of gear-shifting, especially in the first movement, and without the ultimate refinement that can convince a listener that the finale is a great movement as well as an exciting one.
Karajan, who gave us a fine recording of this work with the Vienna Philharmonic on London some 15 years ago, does persuade one that it is great music, but his ponderous reading of the second movement is extremely unconvincing. There is a bonus in the form of the Slavonic Dance in G minor, Op, 46, No. 8, but it is only anticlimactic after the Symphony. The more I hear of other performances, the ore convinced I become that the only way to enjoy this work fully is through the magnificent Bruno Walter remake on Columbia's economical Odyssey label (Y-33231, cassett YT-33231). r