Complete Keyboard Duets
Julian Perkins, Emma Abbate (piano)
Deux-Elles DXL1184 72:23 mins
Weber’s piano duets are minor chippings from the great workshop, but his last set of four-hands pieces, composed at the time he was working on his operatic masterpiece Der Freischütz, exploits the medium brilliantly and contains some really attractive music. No doubt Weber was helped here by the fact that the compass of the newer keyboards had expanded so much in both directions since his previous pieces of the kind, some ten years earlier. Hindemith thought highly enough of some of Weber’s duets to quote several of them in his orchestral Thematic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.
Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate play this music on a fine-sounding piano by the leading early 19th-century Viennese manufacturer Conrad Graf, now housed in the Richard Burnett Collection at Tunbridge Wells. It was a nice idea to break up the Weber pieces by inserting a performance (using an earlier instrument from the same collection) of Mozart’s Variations K501 – the most intimate and perfect of all his keyboard duets – though the players’ fondness for introducing little decorations during repeated sections does the music few favours, particularly when it comes to the austere and anguished minor-mode variation. There’s some impressive playing on display in the Weber, but for all the performers’ obvious affection for the music there are moments when their interpretations sound a little studio-bound, and lacking in the kind of imaginative touches that would have helped the music lift off the page more convincingly.