Nicole Van Bruggen / Jane Rogers / Anneke Veenhoff

Mozart: Phantasia

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Here's a thoroughly revisionist Mozart recording from the Netherlands, the country that does it best. At issue are a pair of Mozart chamber works and the Fantasy in C minor for piano, K. 475, here divorced from its usual companion, the Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457. All are played on copies of historical instruments, and two involve substantial rethinkings of the music involved. The fantasy is one of a growing body of recordings of Mozart's chromatic keyboard pieces that use period fortepiano tunings, in the case the Prelleur temperament devised by English organist and theorist Peter Prelleur. This, among other things, adds murky intensity to many of the modulations but makes the D minor section curiously peaceful and stable. The final work on the program is the most unusual; it is not proclaimed as a world-premiere recording, but probably is. The Grande Sonata in A major for basset clarinet and fortepiano, published in 1809, is an arrangement of the Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581. It is performed here by clarinetist Nicole van Bruggen, violinist Anneke Veenhoff, and keyboardist Jane Rogers not simply to demonstrate the prevalence of arrangements in the early 19th century but because the players believe that the anonymous arranger represents a link to the original lost Mozart manuscript of the work, which was written for basset clarinet. The version heard here includes not only notes playable only on that instrument (which had a range three or four whole steps lower than a modern clarinet) but also many details of phrasing that result in a profoundly unusual experience of the music. Everything is beautifully played (although note that no effort has been made to reduce the clanking sounds from the fortepiano), justified in extensive booklet notes and even more extensive ones online (in English, German, and French), and beautifully presented in a package with superlative graphic design, something that's really not an accessory. Speculative, but well worth hearing as the Romantic performance conventions for Mozart are one by one stripped away.

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