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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The secret Mozart: works for clavichord
On a Hass clavichord:
Allegro in G minor, K. 312 [8.21]
Andante and 5 Variations in G, K. 501 [8.55] *
Minuetto in D, K. 355/Trio da M. Stadler [7.12]
On Mozart’s clavichord:
Marche funèbre, K. 453a [2.14]
Andantino, K. 236 [1.41]
Klavierstück in F, K. 33b (after Gluck) [0.57]
Adagio for Glass Harmonica, K. 356 [2.51]
Laßt uns mit geschlungen Händen K. 623 [1.32]
Rondo in F, K. 494 [6.29]
On a Schiedmayer clavichord:
Theme and 2 Variations in A, K. 460 [3.55]
Fantasia in D minor, K. 397 [5.18]
Sonata in D, K. 381 [17.29] *
Fantasia in D minor, K.397 (with coda) [5.43]
Christopher Hogwood with *Derek Adlam (clavichord)
Instruments: Unfretted clavichord by JA Hass, 1761. Pitch: a1=392 Hz; Anonymous unfretted clavichord owned by Mozart from mid to late 1700s. Pitch: a1=415 Hz; Unfretted clavichord by JCG Scheidmayer, 1791. Pitch: a1=430 Hz
rec. October 2004, Church of St Lawrence, West Wycombe (Hass and Schiedmayer); Mozart Geburtshaus, Salzburg (Mozart’s clavichord).
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82876 832882 [73.46]
 


This is the third disc in Christopher Hogwood’s ‘Secret’ series, following releases focused on Bach and Handel. There hardly seems to be a recording by Hogwood that does not set out to challenge our perceptions of the music he conducts or plays, and this release will certainly challenge. I suppose it’s feasible to make the point that the extent of the challenge it makes will depend on how fixed each listener’s individual views are regarding “how Mozart should sound”.
 
Hogwood’s own lucid introductions to both the series and this disc state that the aim is to present a “private view” of the composers’ keyboard music “in their home setting”.  He continues by usefully quoting Constanze Mozart in regard to Wolfgang’s use of the clavichord for composition, in preference to a fortepiano, additionally stating that “the only instrument that was with him at the start and end of his life was the clavichord.” Yes, Mozart used a forte-piano in public, but in his private music-making the clavichord was his instrument of choice. If you’ve heard period instrument recordings of Mozart sonatas before, then they were approximations at what his public might have heard, and different still from what you’ll hear on this disc. The notes conclude with useful remarks on both the works that form this programme and points of stylistic interest they raise, together with notes on the instruments used for this recording.
 
Listening to this disc straight through, the first really noticeable thing is the difference in sound that the three instruments make. The Hass clavichord is recorded slightly distantly, but you can still hear much of the internal mechanism at work. Not that this is unduly distracting, it is part of the experience in listening to such an instrument. The sound produced is subtle in terms of its colourings and discrete rather than being too imposing. That said, at forte a full sound is produced. Mozart’s clavichord is more forward and taut in its tone – to the point of almost sounding like a guitar at times. There is no doubt that this is still a domestic instrument, given the volume of sound it produces. The Schiedmayer clavichord is the brightest in terms of tone out of the three instruments, the one most capable of sustaining a body of sound at a consistently reasonable volume, and the one most similar to a harpsichord - to my ears at least.
 
For anyone used to Mozart on a modern grand piano some adjustment will be needed before one feels fully at home with this disc. For me though, Hogwood proves a most sensitive advocate in helping one to adjust ones ears to accept Mozart at his most intimate. That the disc is filled mostly with miniatures is an undoubted benefit, as their brevity somehow works hand in hand with the instruments’ intimacy of scale. There are moments when perhaps Hogwood’s playing does not seem ideally fluent – the Marche funèbre, K. 453a played on Mozart’s clavichord, for me, is one – but one can feel in Hogwood’s playing Mozart striving for a musical result that was stretching his instrument to its limits. For the most part though, the music is well chosen to show the instruments in a positive light.  Having admired last year Misha and Cipa Dichter’s reading of the Sonata for two pianos in D, K. 381 (see review), I find the reading Hogwood gives with David Adlam highly exciting. They bring real brio to the opening Allegro. The middle Andante bounces along playfully and the closing Allegro molto has real punch, but contains tenderness and plentiful tonal variation too.
 
A disc that offers a refreshing view of Mozart. Enthusiastically recommended.
 
Evan Dickerson
 

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