Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Fortepiano and I

This afternoon I used my national site on to put up an announcement of the First Triennial International Fortepiano Competition.  What particularly resonated with me was that the five pianists who make it to the finals will each be expected to perform one of the three Opus 1 piano trios by Ludwig van Beethoven.  The idea of performing chamber music, rather than a concerto, is a nice enough change in itself on the competition circuit;  but it just happens that it was through the Beethoven trios that I first became aware of the fortepiano.  I decided to buy the Musical Heritage Society box of the complete trios, and it turned out that the performances featured Leonard Hokanson on fortepiano.  (I just checked both Amazon and iTunes, and it appears that these recordings have not made it to CD or have gone out of print.)

I also remembered that the first time I found myself taking issue with Menahem Pressler was on this site over his coaching a performance of the first movement of Joseph Haydn's A flat major piano trio (Hoboken XV/14) at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music back in February of 2009.  My issue involved whether or not this chamber music should be approached as a “concerto for piano and very small orchestra,” where what mattered most was that the violin and cello provided “obbligato” parts to color the sonorities of the piano.  That sort of “coloration” would be more evident on the scale of chamber music than in a concerto setting, which makes the preference for chamber music over concerto in a fortepiano competition particularly interesting (and relevant to those interested in when the fortepiano is often a better choice than a modern instrument for certain selections).

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