Jan Vermeulen

Schubert: Works for Fortepiano, Vol. 2

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Schubert: Works for Fortepiano, Vol. 2 Review

by Blair Sanderson

The fortepiano has enjoyed a resurgence in historically informed performances, and its unique sound quality -- lying somewhere between that of a harpsichord and a modern spinet -- is more and more familiar in recordings of music by Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and some early pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven. While it is well-suited to the comparatively narrow pitch range and modest dynamics of the Classical repertoire, there are undeniable problems for the instrument in Romantic music, and the keyboard works of Franz Schubert seem somewhat ill-suited to it. Some listeners will find that the 1826 Nannette Streicher fortepiano Jan Vermeulen plays in this second volume of Schubert's piano music for Et'Cetera is too limited in volume, sonority, and color to convey the music with richness, power, and subtlety. Instead of sounding like an appropriate match to the moody Impromptus D. 899 and 935 or the dynamic Sonatas D. 894 and D. 568, the fortepiano sounds strained and frequently overwhelmed by the demands Schubert makes. Vermeulen is a strong and sensitive player, and he communicates many varied expressions in these works that, with some accommodation to the fortepiano's sound, will be felt by open-minded listeners who wish to know what Schubert would have heard in his day. But many more will find the fortepiano's timbres too tinny and its loudest sounds too clanging for easy appreciation, and perhaps pass on these period performances in favor of more accessible renditions on a modern grand piano.

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