MOZART: Fantasias & Rondos = Richard Egarr, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi

by | Aug 15, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Fantasias & Rondos = Fantasie in D minor; Rondo in D major; Fantasie in C major; Rondo in A minor; Marche in C major; Praludio und Fuge in C major; Fantasie in C minor; Marche funebre in C minor; Adagio in B minor; Minuett in D major; Eine kleine Gigue in G major; Adagio for Glass Harmonica in C Major – Richard Egarr, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi HMU 907387, 74:22 ****:

I must confess to not being especially fond of fortepianos. As a sometime harpsichordist I feel many early works, including some early Mozart, are best heard on harpsichord, and when we move into less harpsichordal territory the works should be played on a modern piano.  However I was extremely taken with the famous Sienna Pianoforte (originally Esoteric Records, reissued on Boston Skyline CD) and I find the surprisingly sumptuous sounds of the 1805 fortepiano played by Egarr on this disc to be near nirvana. It was built in Brno, in the Czech Republic, and is either still in fantastic shape or has been skillfully restored.  The rich timbre sounds nothing like the anemic sound of some fortepianos.  But then there is also no orchestra here to obscure the delicate sounds as in some of the Mozart piano concertos which have been recorded using fortepianos.

Richard Egarr’s last HM recording was Bach’s Goldberg Variations on harpsichord, which the Times of London called “a spectacular disc.” He is not only a keyboard virtuoso but a conductor, and covers repertory from the 15th century to the present. Next month he succeeds Christopher Hogwood as Music Director of The Academy of Ancient Music. Egarr also wrote the very readable three pages of notes as introduction to this tasty CD. He writes of the importance in this 250th Anniversary Year of Mozart’s birth of performers of his music opening themselves up to fully express all that Mozart placed inside it.

Egarr has selected Mozart’s “freer” music for keyboard here, presenting the composer in his most raw emotional state. He points out that the Preludes, Fantasies and Capriccio in particular – due to their improvisatory nature – give us a direct window on Mozart at his most immediate and creative. The more structured pieces such as the rondos and minuet can also be quite free and emotional.  I’ve tried to play a couple of these pieces and both seeing and hearing the music causes one in some of them to feel for a moment you are playing a work written perhaps a century later. The ten-minute-long Rondo in A minor K.511 is a good example. In the final Adagio for Glass Harmonica, Egarr uses the knee-levers on the fortepiano to create the intimate and exquisite sound world of Ben Franklin’s instrument.

 – John Sunier

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