With the sonata No 32, one of a group of six published privately in manuscript copies in 1776, we move from inspired galanterie to the vehement astringency characteristic of Haydn’s music in B minor (compare the string quartets Op 33 No 1 and Op 64 No 2). In his later works Haydn preferred a cheerful, major-mode resolution in his minor-keyed movements. Here, though, the recapitulations of the fiercely concentrated outer movements remain grimly in the minor throughout; and what had seemed brilliant or (in the first movement’s dancing triplets) even skittish in the exposition subsequently acquires a tense, anxious edge. The finale, with its obsessively pounding theme—the mainspring of virtually all the musical action—and weird, unsettling silences, is perhaps Haydn’s most violent sonata movement, culminating in a laconic coda that thunders out the theme in stark octave unison. Amid this turbulence, the dulcet, long-spanned central minuet in B major, in effect a surrogate slow movement, provides harmonic balm, with its darkly agitated B minor trio evoking the mood of the sonata as a whole.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2007