The D major Sonata, No 51 dates from Haydn’s second triumphant London visit. Like its two companions of 1794, Nos 50 and 52, the sonata exploits the weightier sonorities of the new Broadwood instruments Haydn relished in London. But whereas Nos 50 and 52 are quasi-symphonic sonatas, written for the professional pianist Therese Jansen, No 51 is an intimate, two-movement work. Haydn perhaps intended it for his pupil and lover Rebecca Schroeter, to whom he dedicated three beautiful piano trios (Nos 24–26). Despite its modest scale and relative technical simplicity—which fooled an early reviewer into thinking it was composed near the beginning of Haydn’s career—the D major is as forward-looking as the two more imposing London sonatas. The first movement, in an idiosyncratic sonata form that varies rather than develops its themes, is a relaxed stroll that prefigures Schubert in its ‘open-air’ textures (right hand in octaves against rippling left-hand triplets) and piquant harmonic touches. The work’s tensions are concentrated in the syncopated scherzo-finale, with its pervasive chromaticism, irregular phrase lengths and aggressively disruptive offbeat accents: music it would be tempting to dub Beethovenian were it not also intensely characteristic of late Haydn.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2012