LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Sonatas for piano four hands: in B flat, KV 358; in D, KV 381; Six Variations in F minor, KV 398 etc
PERFORMER: Andreas Staier, Christine Schornsheim (fortepiano/harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901941
This is a fascinating issue: not only are some of the pieces recorded genuine rarities, but so is the instrument on which they are performed. The keyboard in question is in fact four-in-one distributed at either end of a squareshaped monster of an instrument built by Mozart’s favoured maker, Andreas Stein. At one end is a three-manual harpsichord operating four registers; at the other is a fortepiano with wooden hammers, effectively a dulcimer and a descendent of the so-called pantalon, a device much admired, it seems, by Louis XIV. The range of sound available from this excellently restored and maintained composite is frankly extraordinary, at times almost bewildering.
Among the curiosities performed are ‘Modulating Preludes’ designed to preface bigger works or simply to put an instrument through its paces. Also, added in is a brilliant improvisation by the performers introducing the well known D major duet sonata. Andreas Staier and Christine Schornsheim perform with flawless ensemble and infectious panache, though some may find some additional ornaments and the rather arch rubato in the finale of the D major sonata a touch overenthusiastic. A vibrant recorded sound allows Stein’s instrument to resound in all its extensive glory. Jan Smaczny