Getting to Know the Early Haydn Sonatas (Hob. 1-14)

In my continuing search for appropriate repertoire for late intermediate piano students, I realized that I am not terribly familiar with the early piano sonatas of Joseph Haydn. This seemed like an easy situation to correct, but I decided to take my experience a step further and use the sonatas as daily sight reading exercises in my own work.

My overall impression of these early sonatas is that they are very approachable and tend to address similar issues in each one. I quickly became more aware of Haydn’s use of trills and turns in his writing and began to recognize several of the accompanimental figures that returned throughout the sonatas. Personally, I found myself drawn to the slow movements of these sonatas and think that I can use many of them as stand alone movements for advancing students.

However, I did find two sonatas this week that I think are hidden gems of the repertoire that will be very useful for my developing pianists. The two sonatas are Hob. XVI:7 in C major and Hob. XVI:11 in G major. I will briefly walk you through my thoughts on each sonata and include a video performance from YouTube for your further review.

Sonata No. 7 in C Major (Hob. XVI:7)

This is the sonata that I have assigned to my intermediate pianist as an introduction to the classical era. One of the major factors in that decision is the sonata’s compactness. In the Dover edition of the sonatas, all three movements cover only two pages. There are relatively few chromatic alterations to the friendly C major key. The first movement is the most complex rhythmically; however, the use of 32nd notes in the ascending scales can quickly be understood by an advancing pianist. Additionally, trills only occur at cadential points and are on long quarter notes. The third movement can serve as a study of alberti bass figures as well as broken octaves that are both staples of the piano works from this era. All in all, I think this is going to be a fulfilling and rewarding sonata for young students to explore.

Despite some of the rhythmic inconsistencies in this recording, the teacher can still get an idea of the sonata’s construction. KF

Sonata No. 11 in G Major (Hob XVI:11)

Of all of the early sonatas I have explored this week, this one is my favorite and the most charming. I am especially fond of the middle movement and its treatment of the parallel minor key. Among the pedagogical features of this sonata, I like its treatment of ornaments and the written out nachschlags found in the Andante. This piece will be a welcome addition for those looking for Classical era sonatas that are not overly challenging for young pianists.

Again, overlook the pianist’s rhythmic inaccuracy.

Published by kennithfreeman

I am a classically trained pianist who loves all things musical. I can often be found giving private piano lessons, on the concert stage, or in rehearsal of some type. Currently I am Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. When I'm not making music, I enjoy reading a great novel or trying out a new recipe.

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