“Claviers Mozartiens” – Mozart works on four special keyboard instruments of the 1770s – Sonata KV 282; Prelude KV 284A; Sonata KV 332; Gigue KV574; Fantasie KV 397; Rondo KV 485; Sonata KV 283 – Pierre Goy, vis-å-vis/clavichord/piano carré (2) – Lyrinx

by | Dec 28, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Claviers Mozartiens” – Mozart works on four special keyboard instruments of the 1770s – Sonata KV 282; Prelude KV 284A; Sonata KV 332; Gigue KV574; Fantasie KV 397; Rondo KV 485; Sonata KV 283 – Pierre Goy, vis-å-vis/clavichord/piano carré (2) – Lyrinx multichannel SACD LYR 2251, 60:18 ****:

The common impression of most music lovers today – in this time of constant introduction of new products – is probably that most acoustic musical instruments of today have been around forever. Not so, and it turns out that there was even more ferment in the world of musical instruments ever since the Renaissance. New instruments came and went, some to express new styles in music, and others just to try out quirky ideas about possibly improving the sound of a particular instrument.

During the short lifetime of Mozart there was a transition from the hegemony of the harpsichord  – and the clavichord for intimate playing in the home – to the new pianoforte. Two strains came together to create the pianoforte – originating respectively with the harpsichord and the dulcimer. Christofori developed the gravecembalo col piano e forte, while in Germany Hebestriet created his dulcimer-inspired pianos known as “pantalons,” experimenting with different materials striking the strings to obtain different sounds.

The vis-a-vis was a unique instrument with the harpsichord keyboard at one end and a piano with bare wooden hammers at the other. The harpsichord is a large double-manual one, and the combination of the two instruments creates an almost orchestral effect which perfectly fits Mozart’s music. The Sonata in B major is heard on the vis-a-vis. An unfretted, double-strung clavichord, based on a l772 instrument, is heard in three short Mozart selections. The touch on this instrument is much like a fortepiano, but responding to subtle nuances of touch producing a wide range of dynamics and timbre, unlike a modern piano.

Two very different square pianos are heard on the CD. Generally the lids of these pianos were closed while they were played, creating a resonance chamber; the treble dampers were also permanently raised, creating a dulcimer-like cloud of harmonies. One of the square pianos has cork-covered hammers, both treble and bass dampers, and a harp stop made out of purple velvet.  Mozart especially liked this type of instrument.  The other square piano – epitomizing the English style – has thicker, shorter strings and larger leather-covered hammers. It has a stronger and more flute-like sound. Neither one has an escapement in the action – therefore too-vigorous playing can result in more strikes of the strings than desired, so a delicate touch is required. There are photos of each of the four keyboards with dates and other details provided.

There’s not a great deal of surround information here, but the enhanced resolution of SACD makes it easier to distinguish the often subtle differences between the four keyboard instruments. I could understand if some listeners wished to stay with the two-channel SACD layer – which is very good – rather than the surround option.

 – John Sunier

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