The year 2006 will be Mozart year, as he was born in 1756.
What will it bring us? A yet unknown masterpiece? Very unlikely.
Perhaps a new perspective in the interpretation of Mozart's
oeuvre? That is the best thing one can hope for. This recording
of keyboard music by Mozart is perhaps the kind of recording
which can make the Mozart year worthwhile.
Siegbert Rampe is a German keyboard player, who has already
made many recordings of 17th- and early 18th-century keyboard
music, and has his own ensemble, Nova Stravaganza. He is also
active as a musicologist, and his recordings are always based
on extensive research of the available sources. In 1995 he published
a book on the interpretation of Mozart's keyboard music. One
of the things he paid attention to was the question what kind
of instrument Mozart had in mind when composing his keyboard
music. And one of his conclusions was that a number of works
which today are always played on the fortepiano, were probably
intended for the harpsichord in the first place. It is from
this perspective that this disc contains pieces played on the
harpsichord, the clavichord and the fortepiano.
In the liner notes, Rampe explains his intentions: "The
present CD is the first in a series of premiere recordings of
Mozart's clavier works performed on instruments of his time
- the harpsichord, the fortepiano and the clavichord. In addition
to the familiar sonatas, variations and other pieces, it for
the first time includes the early sonatas K 10-15, the compositions
from the notebook for his sister Nannerl Mozart (1759) and the
London Notebook (1764/65) and all the minuets, contredanses,
German dances and ballets that exist in original keyboard versions.
Appropriate ornamentation is added in the style of the time
and repetitions are executed with improvised variations. Since
the editions now to hand utilise only a part of the surviving
source material, each recording is based on a single contemporary
manuscript or on the first edition."
The disc opens with two of Mozart's most famous keyboard
works, the Fantasia and Sonata in c minor (K475 and K457), which
were composed in 1785 and 1784 respectively. The sonata was
dedicated to his pupil Maria Theresa von Trattner. "Mozart's
dedication copy of the C minor Sonata K457 for Maria von Trattner
dated October 14, 1784 still exists, and that is the version
which is presented for the first time on this CD". Rampe
also argues that this sonata is the first Mozart specifically
composed for the fortepiano. Until then, his compositions were
always intended for either the fortepiano or the harpsichord,
an instrument which many amateurs still had at their homes,
and specimen of which were built in Vienna at least until 1804.
The last item is the fifth of six sonatas Mozart composed
for his own public performances in 1775, and which he played
on several keyboard instruments. But "he informed his father
on October 17, 1777, only the last sounds incomparably good
on the pianoforte of Stein". Rampe has taken this as reasoning
for choosing the harpsichord to perform this sonata.
In between Rampe plays a number of smaller pieces, mainly
minuets and pieces without a title, on the clavichord. The Variations
K54 date from 1788 and are today mainly known in the version
for keyboard and violin as the last movement of the Sonata in
F (K547). The fifth variation in the keyboard version is incomplete
and the keyboard part of K547 has been used to complete it.
The Minuets K315a probably are the keyboard version of a series
of minuets for orchestra, which have been lost.
From this one may conclude that this is going to be a very
interesting series of recordings, which indeed could shed a
new light on Mozart's keyboard works and their interpretation.
I have heard a number of Rampe's recordings of 17th century
keyboard works (Froberger, Muffat) and was generally pleased
by his interpretations. In this case I find it difficult to
judge his performances, as the recording technique hasn't done
him any favours.
I generally enjoyed the performances on the clavichord,
even though I think the recording volume has been too high.
Sadly the sound of the harpsichord is so hollow that it is very
unpleasant to listen to. In the performance of the first two
items on this disc on the fortepiano too many details are lost,
and in the fast passages the articulation lacks clarity. It
is really a shame that the poor recording is undermining the
artistic merits of these performances, in particular as it is
my impression Siegbert Rampe's playing is pretty good. I appreciate
his approach to the Fantasia and Sonata in c minor, which exposes
the dramatic nature of these pieces, which Rampe considers "the
most important clavier works of the late eighteenth century".
I sincerely hope the next volumes will be better recorded and
will fulfil the expectations this first volume arouses.