Siegbert Rampe

Mozart: Complete Clavier Works, Vol. 10

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German historical keyboard specialist Siegbert Rampe has been releasing a complete cycle of Mozart's keyboard works on the German audiophile label MDG. They are, in contemporary parlance, pretty hardcore. They not only include oddities like fragments and music by the six- or seven-year-old Mozart, but they also attempt to imagine fairly specifically the instruments on which the pieces would have been performed. Rampe sometimes uses a clavichord, which is almost never done elsewhere even though Mozart demonstrably owned one for much of his life and used it for private music-making. The oddball instrument here is the 1771 harpsichord by Swiss-English builder Burkat Shudi, on loan from a museum in Glarus, Switzerland. It includes a pedal-actuated device called a "Venetian swell," which allowed the player to obtain graduated dynamic effects. Rampe uses this instrument to great effect for a fragment of a variation set, but also for the Keyboard Sonata in G major, K. 11, which Mozart composed in 1764 while he was being paraded around Europe as a child prodigy. Shudi did not invent the Venetian swell effect until 1769, but Rampe mostly uses the instrument for its brilliant quality, you can imagine the pint-sized Mozart playing it in front of a large crowd. Rampe's choices seem a little off here in several places, although the disc is as stimulating as any of the others in this excellent series. The fortepiano used at the beginning, a modern American copy of a 1795 Viennese Schantz instrument, is an odd choice for the Adagio in B minor, K. 540, which seems to call for a more delicate sound. Rampe's notes don't discuss the 1785 Stein temperament used in the tuning of this instrument, which results in some mighty strange effects not only in the Adagio in B minor, but even in the little Minuet in D major, K. 355, whose trio is not by Mozart but by Maximilian Stadler. Likewise, the Piano Sonata in C major, K. 279, is an odd choice for a clavichord and especially for the thumping model heard here, a Swiss copy of a 1791 model from Erlangen, Germany. Mozart's first set of mature keyboard sonatas are full of quasi-orchestral effects, and this was the place to use a big, powerful harpsichord. In Rampe's interpretation one can imagine him working the piece out in the privacy of his rooms, however. MDG's engineers here have been forced to put together recordings made in three different venues in Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S., but that hasn't stopped them from offering sound that's both clear and attractive.

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