Scroll up for a second and read where this disc was recorded. It is literally the sound of a museum collection on a compact disc — and, for lovers of late classical music and instruments, this album is fascinating.
Dr. Michael Tsalka, already a regular on the Grand Piano label, presents the six sonatas “for connoisseurs” — Kenner
in German — by Daniel Türk. Published in 1789, these can be compared to other keyboard pieces of that vintage: Haydn was on keyboard sonatas 58 and 59, and Beethoven’s first sonatas (Opp. 2 and 49) were just a few short years into the future. Türk’s works are more like Beethoven’s Op. 49: they’re only about ten minutes each, work with uncomplicated melodies and emotions, and compress the classical movement structures down to barest necessities.
They’re also pretty darn enjoyable, as my comparisons to better composers imply. Tsalka’s performances, with subtle and tasteful ornamentation, are a special treat because he uses varied pianos: a clavichord from 1763, with a bizarre sound that’s part harpsichord, part zither, and some thumping moving parts; two Austrian grand pianos from the 1790s, now more audibly related to the modern piano but still spindly and delicate; and a superb 1830s Conrad Graf, warm and maybe even too suave for this music. 1830s Grafs are my favorite historical pianos; if I could play, and also win the lottery, I’d own one or a replica. The first of the 1790s instruments has a “mute” effect which puts today’s mute pedals to shame.
Sound quality is pretty close; you can hear some noise from inside the instruments, and in the fourth sonata I think I heard Tsalka humming a little bit. The close sound is useful because these instruments are suited for intimate spaces, not like today’s concert grands. All in all, this is an excellent release, one that will fascinate lovers of this genre and time period, especially those who enjoy piano history. One booklet essay discusses the music; the other, by a curator, describes the keyboards chosen for this recording.
Previous review: Byzantion