Playing Haydn

Cecily Lock, February 2008

Haydn’s keyboard music is played all over the world, by young and old, by beginners and advanced students, by amateurs and professionals. 

There are beautiful keyboard works (including the dances and a number of movements from the early sonatas) that can be played by beginners, while at the same time a vast quantity of Haydn’s keyboard music (even that which sounds ’simple’ at first hearing) is regularly played by the great pianists of today (think, for example, of Alfred Brendel, Andras Schiff and Leif Ove Andsnes). In addition, many sonatas are popular competition pieces.  

Eleanor Bailie’s The Pianist’s Repertoire. Haydn. A graded practical guide provides a useful graded list of Haydn’s keyboard works, which makes it easy to find a piece that suits your standard. It also includes some background information (on pedalling, articulation, ornamentation and other important issues), tips for piano teachers and pupils (concerning tempo, rhythm, phrasing etc.) and detailed reflexions on every keyboard work. 

Another very useful (and concise) book is the BBC Music Guide Haydn. Piano Sonatas by composer and pianist John McCabe. It also includes an interesting introduction and short analyses of all of the sonatas and other solo keyboard works. 

'Il maestro e Lo Scolare', for piano four hands, provides a fun opportunity for teacher and pupil to bond and make music together. 

The fantastic keyboard trios (with violin or flute and cello) and the song accompaniments (with male and female voices) similarly give opportunity for ensemble music-making. In the simpler German songs, the right hand often doubles the voice-part. 

Some  piano methods include keyboard versions of other instrumental music (such as the 'Surprise symphony' in 'Die Russische Klavierschule'), a wonderful first introduction to Haydn. 

There are many recordings of Haydn’s keyboard works, on both the modern piano and on historic instruments, that can enrich and facilitate students’ (learning) experience of Haydn’s music. 

For those musicians who want to enhance their musical interpretation by reading about Haydn and his music I strongly advise the Oxford Composer Companions. Haydn (very easy to use), Haydn. Chronicle and Works by Robbins Landon, The New Grove Haydn, and the important books with detailed information on (the performance practice of) Haydn’s keyboard music by Brown, Harrison and Somfai. A useful book in Dutch is Joseph Haydn. Leven en Werken by Clemens Romijn.


Bailie, Eleanor The Pianist’s Repertoire. Haydn. A graded practical guide with a  foreword by H.C. Robbins Landon (Novello, 1989). 
Brown, A. Peter Joseph Haydn’s Keyboard Music: Sources and Style (Indiana University Press, 1986). 
Harrison, Bernard Haydn’s Keyboard Music: Studies in Performance Practice (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1997). 
Jones, David Wyn, ed. Oxford Composer Companions. Haydn (Oxford; University Press, 2002). 
Landon, H.C. Robbins Haydn: Chronicle and Works (5 vols.) (Indiana University Press, 1976-1980). 
McCabe, John Haydn’s Piano Sonatas (BBC Music Guides, Ariel Music, 1986). 
Romijn, Clemens Joseph Haydn. Leven en Werken, (Bluestone Publishers, 2002). 
Webster, James and Georg Feder The New Grove Haydn (Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2002).