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Mozart "Works From His Golden Age (1781-1791) Redbook CD


Mozart \"Works From His Golden Age (1781-1791) Redbook CD

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Oeuvres de son l'Age d'Or (1781-1791)

Yoko Kaneko: fortepiano

Listen to Sonata in C major KV 545 - Allegro
"Sonata in C major KV 545 - Allegro"

Listen to Sonata in C major KV 545 - Andante
"Sonata in C major KV 545 - Andante"

MA Recordings has had a ongoing relationship with the superb Japanese pianist Yoko Kaneko since 2007 when she asked me to record her piano quartet's concert in Tokyo. This recording of quartet music by French Impressionist composers Gabriel Faure and Ernest Chausson was released on our MAJ series exclusive to Japanese artists. A few months after recording the quartet project, I found myself in a converted barn, deep in the French countryside, recording Yoko performing works by Beethoven on her very own fortepiano, built by Christopher Clarke (released by Anima in France, but also available on this site). And now, this stellar recording, also performed on the same fortepiano, of some of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's most famous works from his later years, or what has been appropriately called ?His Golden Age? (1781-1791). The masterpieces on this collection are as follows:

Rondo A mineur KV. 511

Sonate F majeur KV. 533, KV. 494



RONDO Allegretto

Fantasie C mineur KV. 475

(Adagio-Allegro-Andantino-Piu allegro-Primo tempo)

Sonate C mineur KV. 457

Molto allegro


Allegro assai - agitato

Adagio for Glassharmonika KV. 356/617a

Sonate C majeur KV. 545



RONDO Allegretto

An MA 5.6 Megahertz DSD Recording

July, 2011; Eglise Reformee d'Auteuil, Paris

Microphones: "Two of a Kind" MA Recordings own custom made, DC powered, line level with DPA MM4002 omni-directional capsules, designed by Junichi Yonetani

Cables: 'Tombo' microphone cables custom designed by Chris Sommovigo (

Recording Device: Korg MR2000S

Monitored on Stax Lambda Signature Pro Earspeakers with Solid State Amp

Fortepiano (Pianoforte): Christopher Clarke (Donzy le National en Bourgogne, 2004) after/d'apr�s Anton Walter (Vienne, fin XVIIIïeme siecle/Vienna, around the end of the 18th cent.)

Technician/Tuneur (accordeur ): Clarisse Fauve

Liner notes/Texte: Rene Beaupain, Paris

Cover photos by Marc-Antoine Mouterde; with thanks to "Prelle Manufacture" (

Artist photos, Package Design, Editing and Mastering: Todd Garfinkle

Produced by Yoko Kaneko and Todd Garfinkle

Liner notes in English:

The piano of Mozart's time, called the "fortepiano" to differentiate it from the contemporary piano, is an instrument made entirely of wood. The modern piano however, has a large metal frame (normally of cast iron, sometimes called the "plate" or "harp") that can withstand the higher tension of the strings which became necessary in order to produce the powerful sound required in today?s large concert halls. In addition, unlike almost all modern pianos, the strings on the "fortepiano" are all parallel to each other (as is also the case on the harpsichord and the harp). The modern piano has some sections of strings that "cross" over each other. The purpose of this is to increase projection and sound dynamics. In order to achieve an ever more voluminous sound, the dimensions of the modern day concert grand piano have increased over time. Therefore, contemporary concert grand pianos now far exceed the length of Mozart's fortepiano. In Mozart's time, the fortepiano was about 2 meters 20cm, while contemporary full concert grand pianos normally exceed 2m70cm, with some actually exceeding three meters! There are further significant differences between these two kinds of pianos: First of all, the touch of the fortepiano is lightweight and sensitive, giving us a sound which is precise, clear and bright, with a wide variety of timbres that enhance the performer?s personal expression. The modern piano is heavier, more even and reliable, resulting in a slightly rounder sound, (due to the crossing of the strings), but at the same time, powerful and triumphant, with a greater equality of timbre. The sound is immediately "beautiful", but somehow static and impersonal, more global.

Thus, playing Mozart's keyboard works on a modern piano (for which this music was not written, remember) necessarily involves accepting some deviations from the composer's intentions because of the great differences between these two types of instruments. A return to period instruments, however, poses major problems.

First, they have become extremely rare, often poorly or not at all maintained. These period instruments were built more than two hundred years ago and actually have not improved with age (unlike some great violins); usually their sound has deteriorated. The fortepiano therefore, developed the negative reputation as sounding like a "bunch of old pots"

The contemporary listener, who has grown accustomed to the sound of the modern piano, has numerous opportunities to hear those few period instruments that have escaped total decline. He or she must therefore get used to the sound of the fortepiano, although this is sometimes hard to accept, regardless of meticulous restoration. Although many of the original sonic qualities have been realized, we can never be 100% certain that their sonic signatures have been completely restored. One can however get an idea of how compositions should sound, in itself, a revelation to many music lovers.

A relatively new development has been the construction of contemporary copies of original fortepiano instruments. Carefully designed, in accordance with the methods of the times, utilizing as much as possible the same materials that were originally used, these instruments have become invaluable for the performance of not only Mozart's piano music but the original flavor of much of the piano music of that same period.

The fortepiano used here is a copy constructed in 2004 by Christopher Clarke after an instrument made in Vienna by Anton Walter circa. 1795. The Viennese fortepianos of this Viennese builder were highly appreciated by Mozart and the one he acquired in 1782 he especially loved. Viennese instruments were known for their lightweight and sensitive to touch because of a specific mechanism developed in the Germanic countries called the "Viennese Mechanism." Elsewhere in Europe, France and Britain in particular, another system called the "English action" was commonly used. While it was less sensitive, it was a little heavier, enabling a more powerful sound.

Consisting entirely of wood, without metal reinforcements, this piano has a length of 2m20cm and a range of five octaves and one note (61 notes); the contemporary piano generally has 88 notes. The instrument is equipped with thin strings that are doubled throughout in order to increase loudness (the modern piano has one big string per note in the bass, two thinner strings for the mid-register and triple strings in the treble). While the modern piano has foot operated pedals, the fortepiano is equipped with two knee operated pedals (operated with knee movement). One of them raises the dampers, prolonging the sound (similar in function to the sustain pedal), and the other called "Play Heavenly", changes the tone and softens the sound, but in a way different from the modern piano's soft pedal. The "heavenly" effect is obtained by placing a thin sheet of leather between the hammer and the string; this can be heard on a few select movements on this recording.

The works of Mozart presented here are from what has been called his "Golden Era" (1781-1791), the time of his maturity and his greatest compositions.

The Rondo in A minor (KV 511), composed in 1787, is filled with melancholy, sadness, and an infinite desolation.

Sonata in F major (KV 533, KV 494), composed in 1788, originally consisted of only two movements (instead of the traditional three) but Mozart "completed" it by adding a slightly modified Rondo (KV 494), completed two years earlier in 1786. The Allegro, overflowing with joy, is bouncy and upbeat, after which the Andante expresses a somewhat pensive, quiet rest. The last movement, an Allegretto, seems to summarize the first two movements (despite the fact that it is an independent composition), in which one can perceive both cheerful and good-natured friendliness.

The Fantasy in C minor (KV 475), dated 1785, starts with a rather ceremonial Adagio which then moves to a brilliantly singing Allegro. This is followed with a peaceful Andantino and virtuosic Piu allegro. Ultimately returning to the Adagio (Tempo primo), the piece ends solemnly but not before the rapid and sonorous finale. This Fantasy was originally published with the Sonata in C minor that follows on this recording and therefore often serves as its prelude.

Sonata in C minor (KV 457), composed in 1784, has been described as being one of the most complete sonatas that Mozart wrote. It begins with a Molto allegro, with the same motive with which the fore-mentioned Fantasy is known for; the same motif constantly recurring and progressing with determined energy thruout the movement. The second movement (Adagio) is filled with a dreamy sweetness accentuated with the "Play Heavenly" soft pedal. The last movement, Allegro assai, revisits the high energy of the first movement with dramatic accents culminating in the finale.

The Adagio in C major (KV 356/617a), written for glass harmonica, is a very sweet, short piece. Its ?airy? harmonies and delicate sounds can be well rendered on the fortepiano by applying a very thin and light touch. The piece was specifically composed by Mozart in 1791 for Marianne Kirchgïssner, a blind musician who became well known as a fortepiano virtuoso. That same year, she put on a series of concerts in Vienna.

The final work on this recording, the Sonata in C major (KV 545), composed in 1788, is known to some as the "Sonata for Debutants" (or "Easy Sonata,"). That said, the piece contains numerous performance pitfalls. The opening elegant Allegro, which requires proven dexterity, is followed by an Andante with its sweet, singing melody, the sound of which is enhanced with the use of the "Play Heavenly" soft pedal. The work ends with a technically sophisticated Rondo.

Yoko Kaneko brings the bright and sparkling sound of the the fortepiano to life, revealing poetry and sweetness, melancholy and depth. Her performance of the works presented here, no doubt brings us closer to the true sound and therefore intention of the music of Mozart's time.

Rene Beaupain. October, 2011

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