For the love of the Fortepiano: Mozart Concerto in E flat for two fortepianos, Andante

>> Sunday, March 7, 2010

So today, as I promised, I open a series on the fortepiano, featuring concertos, sonatas, and other works that were composed by various early composers specifically for the fortepiano. I will caution you, if you've never heard a fortepiano, you'll be a little taken aback by the "tinnier" sound, but what you are hearing is actually what Mozart, Haydn, & Beethoven heard when they composed their works for these instruments. This is living history--music played on the instruments for which it was composed.

The first feature is the Andante Movement of Mozart's Concerto in E flat for two fortepianos.

Concerto in E flat major for Two Pianos KV 365, also known as Piano Concerto No. 10, was the last of Mozart’s piano concertos written in Salzburg, before he left for Vienna. He composed it for his sister Nannerl and himself, and right from the start, it is obvious that she was also a gifted keyboard performer. In this recording, the piece is performed in its two versions: the original from 1779, with a small orchestra, and the other from 1782 with an extended orchestra, which deservedly gives it a certain grandeur. The work is built in three movements and is challenging for both soloists. The parts for the two pianos are equally assigned and Mozart was careful to divide up the most striking and virtuosic passages evenly between the two solo players. The first movement, Allegro, opens with a long, ambitious orchestral introduction. Both pianos finally enter together, briefly alternating introductory phrases, as if exchanging ideas with each other, to then join again in the first theme. A second theme appears afterwards, more dramatic, giving briefly the impression that something bad might be about to happen, but this never takes place. The orchestra puts an end to it by repeating the opening and leading the movement to its finish, a beautifully fluid cadenza and coda. This is brilliantly delivered by Alexei Lubimov, who plays piano 1, and Ronald Brautigam, who plays piano 2. It is all done in a suitably witty, playful and charming manner and one can imagine two siblings performing and enjoying themselves together. This fact was natural for both Wolfgang and Nannerl, who were used to performing together from a very young age but who also understood and liked each other on a personal level. The musical rapport between Lubimov and Brautigam is already present in this first movement and does justice to the Mozart siblings.

In the second movement, Andante, slow and refined, they continue the playful dialogue as if engaging in a healthy, joyful competition. After the introductory theme, a minuet, by the orchestra, the same theme appears in the pianos, divided into two solo passages to allow the soloists to demonstrate their skills individually. The two pianists soon seem to flow together again, as the movement progresses, nicely leading and accompanying each other, beautifully alternating with the orchestra though it suitably stays in the background allowing the two keyboard performers to shine. This movement finishes almost abruptly, to take us into the finale, Rondeau, Allegro, wonderfully scored by Mozart to the instruments of his day. It has such size and power that one cannot help but wonder what he would have achieved with modern day grand pianos. Again, Lubimov and Brautigam, excel and deliver the piece perfectly, with rhythmic drive and equal elegance both in the lyrical graceful passages and in the exuberant return to the main rondo theme. They left me enchanted, wishing that I could have been present to participate in such musical joy.

Margarida Mota-Bull


Kathy Handyside March 7, 2010 at 11:20 PM  

Once you get used to the sound, you then start picking up the wonderful, amazing, subtle, and wide range of colors of the fortepiano's sound. And then you won't want to hear Mozart on any other piano - at least that's how it is with me. If you're ever fortunate to actually play a fortepiano, you will be amazed at how fluidly and easily you can play those Mozartean runs! Much easier than on a modern piano. I simply love the fortepiano and if I had the money, I'd replace my modern piano with a fortepiano.

Thanks, Nettl. Of course, you knew I'd love this! :)


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