Catherine Perrin

Mozart: Ah! vous dirai-je maman

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Mozart: Ah! vous dirai-je maman Review

by Patsy Morita

Catherine Perrin's Ah! Vous dirai-je maman is a recital to show off the sound of a 1772 Jakob and Abraham Kirckman harpsichord, a dual-manual instrument with a pedal mechanism that allows the performer to switch from loud to soft stops quickly. She chose pieces that are contemporaneous with the instrument, which are almost always performed either on a fortepiano or modern piano, but they don't sound out of place on this harpsichord, just different. It has a light, elegant sound, not thickly metallic, and gives a lighter character to the music. Being a harpsichordist and not someone who has first learned these works on the piano, Perrin doesn't try to force anything out of the instrument that it can't produce. The Haydn Sonata in F major, Hob. 16/23, has a lot of repeated figures in the first movement, which seem to be more noticeable here because she isn't using the pedal to soften them a second time, whereas she does use it in the final Presto for echoed phrases. The second movement also loses something of its cantabile nature just because it's impossible to fully connect the notes in the melody line and there is little distinction of touch or volume between the melody and accompaniment. However, applying the soft stops throughout and Perrin's nuanced timing give it a melancholy character. The way she plays with tempo in the slowest variation of Mozart's Ah! Vous dirai-je maman actually causes it to sound piecemeal because of the complete silences that occur between phrases, whereas in the Fantasy in D minor, K. 397, the full stops make dramatic sense. That Fantasy is surprisingly well suited to the instrument, taking on the brooding darkness of a 1960s cheap horror film, as is the Allemande in C minor, K. 399, another dolorous movement. The J.C. Bach Duetto, Op. 18/5, where Perrin is joined by harpsichord builder Robert Sigmund, best demonstrates the full range and capabilities of the instrument. They frequently use the pedal for coloring, and they added a mini cadenza to use the highest notes of the harpsichord. It's an interesting instrument, one that Perrin presents in a favorable and pleasant manner.

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