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Piano Sonata No. 52 (Haydn)

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Piano Sonata No. 52 (Haydn)

The Piano Sonata No. 52 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/52, L. 62, was written in 1794 by Joseph Haydn. This is the last of Haydn's piano sonatas, and is widely considered his greatest. It has been the subject of extensive analysis by preeminent musicological figures such as Heinrich Schenker and Sir Donald Tovey, largely because of its expansive length, unusual harmonies and interesting development.[1] Sometimes the sonata is referred to as number 62 based on the numbering of Christa Landon instead of the numbering of Hoboken.[2]


Haydn wrote the work for Therese Jansen, an outstanding pianist who lived in London at the time of Haydn's visits there in the 1790s. Haydn served as a witness at her wedding to Gaetano Bartolozzi (16 May 1795).[3] Haydn also dedicated three demanding piano trios (H. XV:27–29) and another two piano sonatas (H. XVI:50 and 51) to Jansen.[4]

With regard to the E-flat sonata, Jansen was evidently the dedicatee of the autograph (hand-written) score but not the first published version. On the title page of the autograph Haydn wrote in Italian, "Sonata composta per la Celebra Signora Teresa de Janson ... di me giuseppe Haydn mpri[5] Lond. 794,[6]" which means "Sonata composed for the celebrated Miss Theresa Jansen ... by myself Joseph Haydn in my own hand, London 1794."[7]

Heartz implies that Haydn may have left the sonata unpublished for some time so that Jansen could have the work for her exclusive use.[8] Ultimately, Haydn had the work published in Vienna in 1798, three years after he had returned there from London. The publisher was Artaria, and the dedicatee for the published version was Magdalena von Kurzbeck.[9] A London edition, perhaps instigated by Jansen, appeared with Longman and Clementi in 1800 with the title "A grand new sonata for the piano forte composed expressly for Mrs. Bartolozzi, Op. 78."[10]


The work has three movements:

The first movement takes approximately 7–8 minutes to perform in an average performance, the second movement 6.5–7.5 minutes, and the third movement 5–6 minutes.

It opens with an expansive, French Overture theme and has a contrasting second theme in the upper, "music box" register that has been identified with the wie aus die ferne (as in the distance) trope of the nineteenth century.[11] Its harmonic exploration is unusually broad for Haydn's solo piano writing. It has a strong rhythmic character and forward momentum built around an unflinching sonata structure.


Sonata 52, Hoboken XVI:52, 1st movement
File:Haydn Piano Sonata No62 HobXVI-52 Mvt1.ogg
Performed by Kristian Cvetković

Sonata 52, Hoboken XVI:52, 2nd movement
File:Haydn Piano Sonata No62 HobXVI-52 Mvt2.ogg
Performed by Kristian Cvetković

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  • Caldwell, John (1985) English keyboard music before the nineteenth century. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-24851-8.
  • Heartz, Daniel (2009) Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven. New York: Norton.

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