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GRAMOPHONE (05/2015)
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RCA 88883725202

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Reviewer: Jed Distler

Known for his immense and influential operatic and sacred output, Johann Adolf Hasse wrote relatively little for solo keyboard. All but two of the works on this disc constitute world premieres, while the two-movement Sonatas Nos 4 and 5 receive their first recordings on a modern concert grand. Not that the choice of instrument really matters, because the music’s textural dimensions and technical challenges are modest at best; to play a Hasse sonata on a nine-foot Fazioli Model F278 is like driving a Rolls-Royce to go get a pasty or a pretzel. Yet with Andrea Bacchetti behind the proverbial wheel, one should be grateful.


Aside from a discreet filled-in octave or embellishment here and there, Bacchetti plays these works simply and directly, with just enough colour and nuance to keep things interesting without overloading the music. He enlivens the D minor organ fugue’s detached and sustained phrasings and eloquently sings out the threemovement G major Sonata’s central Largo with virtually no help from the sustain pedal. Even the threadbare textures of the strangely proportioned F major Concerto (two short, quick movements bookending a lengthy slow movement) benefit from Bacchetti’s subtle changes of timbre in order to delineate solo and tutti roles.


His playing always makes a strong case for Hasse’s undisputed melodic gifts. The tunes invariably lodge in your memory, such as those in the aforementioned Fourth Sonata’s long first movement: did Mozart dictate to Hasse back from the future? And Sonata No 5’s Allegro is not unlike a Handel aria supported by Vivaldi’s typically churning rhythms. The intimate, slightly dry sound befits the music to the point of magnifying Bacchetti’s occasional grunts and groans.


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