WORKS: Piano Sonatas Op. 2: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Ian Hobson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Z6637 DDD
The first thing you notice, comparing these two issues, is how loud Melvyn Tan’s ‘period’ instrument sounds. He plays a modern copy of an 18th-century Viennese piano by Anton Walter which has a lively, even fiery tone – stringy and nasal to modern ears but with a much more incisive bass register than many early pianos. It’s difficult to produce a pianissimo without using a soft pedal, which produces some abrupt changes of sonority. But a sense of vigour is produced by the instrument’s mechanism: it doesn’t sound easy to play. In the outer movements of the third sonata Tan’s articulation can be laboured, and his distortions of rhythm in the finale of the first sonata sound less artistically than technically motivated.
On a modern Steinway, Hobson can produce a wider dynamic range and affod to play the Adagio of the third sonata more slowly because of the piano’s sustaining power. He can also play the lively movements much faster.
One version is not better than the other; the character of the playing fits the instrument. Adrian Jack