No 31 in E major is one of a heterogeneous bunch of six sonatas (Nos 27–32) issued privately in manuscript copies in 1776, though it probably dates from two or three years earlier. The first movement contrasts a lyrical theme in three-part counterpoint, expressively varied in the course of the movement, with cascading sextuplets that generate a powerful climax in the central development. The most striking part of the sonata is the second movement, a neo-Baroque E minor Allegretto that suggests both a chorale prelude and a three-part invention. As in No 33, the finale—a dashing theme and variations with a contrasting E minor episode—follows without a break. Haydn was to remember the strangely haunting Allegretto two decades later in the middle movement of the great E major Piano Trio, No 28.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009