Mozart & Beethoven [keyboard music]

Thomas Leininger fortepiano
Talbot Records TR1901
K331, 332, 397; Sonata in F, op 2/1

Depending on your point of view, this may be ‘a breath of fresh air’, ‘wilful distortion of the music’ or a bit of both. The programme begins with a reasonably orthodox performance of Mozart’s D minor fantasia K397. Thereafter each of the three well-known sonatas is prefaced by an improvisatory prelude based on ideas and suggestions taken from Clementi and Czerny, and this improvisatory style is carried into the sonatas themselves, with much and sometimes quite extreme variation of tempo; ornamentation; mini-cadenzas; dis-location between the hands; and far more use of the moderator lever than any other player I have heard.

As far as I am concerned this last feature is especially welcome – I’ve often wondered why players, both ‘modern’ and HIP, don’t do it more.* What I do query is the inclusion on a recording of the preludes. Of their very nature these are transitory and ephemeral but the ‘document’ nature of a CD seems to accord them a quasi-canonic status that they don’t really have. But this could also be said of ornaments, of course. Of the other distinctive features of the playing I found the tempo variation the most disturbing and the least convincing: sometimes the effect was comparable to a beginner’s speeding up in the easy passages and slowing down when the going gets tougher. But the additional ornaments are more than welcome.

The booklet (in English and German) says nothing about the music itself – perhaps it is regarded as too familiar to need it. And I do think you should hear this recital: it does question ‘standard practice’ and that’s to be applauded.

David Hansell

*Sir Andras Schiff is a notable exception. At a recital I attended he was positively dancing over all three of his Steinway’s pedals – though not when he was playing Bach!

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