Jan Vermeulen

Schubert: Works for Fortepiano, Vol. 5

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Historical keyboard recordings drop off in frequency the later one goes in the 19th century, and Belgian player Jan Vermeulen has little competition for his impressive cycle of Schubert piano music. He performs throughout on an 1826 instrument from the Viennese workshop of Nannette Streicher, who is buried with her piano-builder husband opposite Beethoven in the Vienna central cemetery. Streicher was the daughter of Andreas Stein, the builder who set the piano on its course toward power and volume, and Vermeulen's instrument here, lovingly restored and prepared by a team of Belgium's top historical-keyboard technicians, combines a loud, thumping lower register with an agile but somewhat noisy top that has an uncanny resonant effect in fast runs. Vermeulen has a tendency to shape his playing to highlight these qualities, but this is just another way of saying that he is finding the pianism in Schubert's works, and his readings are fresh and often startling. The famous work among this set is the Fantasie in C major, K. 760, "Wanderer," placed right at the beginning of the program. In the percussive low intervals that open the work and again in the final fugato, Vermeulen takes his time and lets the listener stew in what would in the late 1820s have been a very startling sound that fully merited the "fantastic" descriptor. The rest of the music comes from earlier in Schubert's career, for the most part slightly predating the Streicher piano. Although the two large sets of dances are a bit monotonous to hear straight through, there are numerous other revelatory meeting points between instrument and musical structure; hear for example the increased importance the right-hand passagework takes on in the opening movements of the Piano Sonata in E minor, D. 566, and the Piano Sonata in E major, D. 157, or the murky turbulence of the Adagio in G major, D. 178. The engineering in Vermeulen's set, using a small concert hall in Leuven, has been ideally suited to the exploration of the capabilities of the Streicher piano, and while historical keyboards may not be as important in Schubert as they are in earlier repertory, any Schubert lover will gain something from hearing Vermeulen's readings.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Sechsunddreissig Originaltänze, genannt Erste Walzer, D 365
1 0:35
2 0:38
3 0:35
4 0:37
5 0:38
6 0:36
7 0:37
8 0:41
9 0:34
10 0:41
11 0:41
12 0:29
13 0:38
14 0:40
15 0:34
16 0:34
17 0:34
18 0:32
19 0:39
20 0:31
21 0:39
22 0:37
23 0:40
24 0:33
25 0:37
26 0:33
27 0:40
28 0:33
29 1:06
30 0:34
31 0:38
32 1:07
33 1:04
34 0:48
35 0:48
36 1:13
Sonata in E major, D 157
37 8:14
38 7:13
39 4:17
40 3:01
41 6:26
42 3:13
43 5:04
blue highlight denotes track pick