I suppose that with all the different pianists playing Haydn in this round, the odds were pretty good that one of them would eventually get through to me. Congratulations, Alessandro Deljavan! The bearded Italian started with the Sonata in E-flat major (Hob. XVI: 52) and produced a light, supple performance that I could follow from beginning to end.
He followed it with Liszt's Sonata in B minor, and honestly, I was rather dreading the prospect of a third hearing of this piece in two days. However, his Liszt sonata was easily the best one so far. He played with an authentic fire that was missing from the other two performances, and it was coupled with an airy, sun-kissed tone that seems to be second nature to Italian pianists. He took the lighter passages with an enviable gossamer touch, and wrangled this massive half-hour work into a narrative that flowed so smoothly that I never checked my watch. Terrific stuff.
He had a couple of odd stage mannerisms. He worked the soft pedal with his left foot as one is supposed to do, but during some of the more impassioned parts, he'd take his foot off the pedal by leaning back and kicking his left foot forward between the pedals and the piano leg. Also, when his right hand was playing a soft passage by itself, he'd sometimes raise his left hand with his palm up, as if to help himself play more gently. As good a musician as he is, he could play standing on his head for all I care.