Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mozart am Stein vis-a-vis - Andreas Staier & Christine Schornsheim







Although these are zestful, musically satisfying performances of mostly Mozart, I suppose the real news here is the instrument: the so-called Stein Vis-à-vis, built by Johann Andreas Stein in 1777. I’ll admit I never heard of it before. It was a kind of mutant, a three-manual harpsichord at one end and at the other a fortepiano with what our scholarly annotator calls a “moderator” stop. The two keyboardists face each other. Honestly, I don’t know why one wouldn’t just buy two separate instruments. To my perhaps too conservative mind, this sounds like a goofy idea, but in practice, as in the German Dances I am listening to right now, the sound is not usually jarring, especially when the two halves of the Stein-Vis-a-vis (1777) harpsichord side instrument are being played together. In some of these dances, which Staier and Schornsheim evidently arranged, the two play a kind of game, trading phrases on harpsichord and fortepiano. When they want particularly a quiet section, it is played on the fortepiano end, and one hears the difference. I hear that difference as a disturbance, the way one would hear an affectation. Still this is a fascinating disc. The duo has a particularly vibrant approach to Mozart, in the two familiar sonatas, which they play four hands at the harpsichord end, and in the less familiar works, including the two strange preludes. I don’t know anything to which I can compare this immensely enjoyable disc. Surely many readers will take pleasure in it as well. 


flac, scans

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