Richard Lester

Richard Lester plays Mozart

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Veteran historical keyboardist Richard Lester has earned wide acclaim for his readings of Scarlatti's sonatas and other Baroque works on the harpsichord. He is an energetic concertizer and recording artist who has drawn numerous new fans to historical keyboard music with a repertoire stretching back to Frescobaldi and now forward to Mozart. There's much to recommend this live recording, taken from a concert given at the Holburne Museum in Bath, England, in 2007 and making use of a Johann Schantz fortepiano from the museum's collection. Brothers Johann and Wenzel Schantz were Viennese piano builders whose instruments are less often heard than those of Anton Walter. Mozart is not known to have owned one, but Haydn did; one observer of the time wrote of Schantz pianos that their tone "is not as strong as that of Walter, but it is just as clear, and usually more pleasing." The muscular Beethovenian tone of the Walter fortepiano is difficult to achieve on the Schantz piano, and the dynamic range of this one is comparatively small, but its sound is attractive. Lester uses it to good effect in the more pianistic works on the program: the quasi-orchestral Piano Sonata in D major, K. 311; the Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, maman," K. 265 (the melody is the one known in English as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"), and the Rondo alla Turca from the Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331. In music requiring an expressive shaping of the melody, and in the slow movements in general, there's a bit of the dryness sometimes heard in the productions of Baroque players who take on Classical repertoire. But the live engineering is excellent, and the instrument itself, a 1795 example, may be of interest in itself to historical piano fans. Booklet notes are in English only.

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