Joseph Haydn spent much of his career in service to nobility, away from the musical limelight. The composer told a biographer this: I was cut off from the world. There was no one within my vicinity to make me unsure of myself or to persecute me; and so I had to become original.

Marc-Andre Hamelin, a pianist, has just released the second album in a series of Haydn sonatas.

And our reviewer Tom Manoff says Hamelin has a special ability to reveal Haydn's originality.

TOM MANOFF: The word that comes to mind listening to Marc-Andre Hamelin play Haydn is delight.

(Soundbite of song, "Sonata in E minor (Hob XVI: 34): Vivace Molto")

MANOFF: Many of these sonatas have been neglected by the world's famous pianists because most of them were composed for amateurs, not virtuosos. So, from a technical viewpoint, they're easy. But Haydn's so-called easy piano music was fertile ground for his genius, and in these sonatas, we hear the composer's core musical gifts of melody, harmony and form.

(Soundbite of song, "Sonata in D Major (Hob XVI: 33): Allegro")

MANOFF: When he was nearing 60, Haydn fell in love with an amateur pianist who admired his music. She was married, however, and also from the nobility. So things stayed platonic, but passion can heat up in music, as in the one sonata he wrote for his unattainable amour.

(Soundbite of song, "Genzinger Sonata")

MANOFF: It's always interesting when a pianist of this stature steps outside the virtuosic repertory. The message is that there's something special here, something missed perhaps in music history. And Hamelin's interpretations are unerring in focus: never overplayed to make the music seem more difficult but never underplayed when the composer's intentions call for some muscle. From lyrical proclamations to high-minded fun, the way Marc-Andre Hamelin plays Haydn makes him one of the foremost interpreters of the composer's piano music today.

(Soundbite of song, "Genzinger Sonata")

SIEGEL: The piano sonatas are Haydn's, performed by Marc-Andre Hamelin in his second volume of Haydn sonatas. Our reviewer is Tom Manoff.

(Soundbite of music)


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