Delightful, eloquent, witty, fired-up, capricious, profound, mercurial … Haydn’s music does all these things, and more, during this CD’s sixty-seven minutes. Always inventive, never samey.

Paul Lewis is exploring Haydn’s Piano Sonatas – this is Volume Two – and includes four of them here: C-minor (Hob.20); E-flat (Hob.52); E-minor (Hob.34); D-major (Hob.51). He takes his traversals seriously; if there’s a smile it’s in the music already, Lewis doesn’t signpost it, and anyway there’s no need given the pleasingly-taunting earworm that is the jaunty Finale of Hob.34 (its first movement is Scarlatti-like in delicious unpredictability). Lewis also elevates the music away from the salon to the grandest concert hall, using the piano as a force for good, exploiting a wide dynamic range, captured with fidelity in the Teldex Studio Berlin (January 2019), and he observes every repeat including (when marked) movements’ second halves: Hob.20 benefits the most from such largesse.

These are well-judged readings, fleet when required, muscular too (proto-Beethovenian), and shapely/articulate at all times. Quite how the irritating noise thirty-three seconds into the poignant slow movement of Hob.20 survived post-production must remain a mystery. Because of this blot have I been mean enough to resist nominating this release, Harmonia Mundi HMM 902372, as Outstanding? No!

Paul Lewis records Beethoven’s Bagatelles [Harmonia Mundi]