See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepiano, the Instrument That Most Authentically Captures the Sound of His Music

I’ve been a fan of the Acad­e­my of Ancient Music since I picked up its per­for­mance of Vivaldi’s The Four Sea­sons as a teenag­er in the UK. Though into rock and prog at the time, I was always try­ing to expand my learn­ing and would occa­sion­al­ly turn the dial from BBC Radio One (for John Peel, late at night) to Radio Four where I tried to make my way in the heady world of clas­si­cal music. It was how the album was pro­mot­ed and sold: you’ve nev­er heard Vival­di until you’ve heard it on the orig­i­nal instru­ments! I mean, this tied right in at the time to the advent of CDs (“hear it as the musi­cians did in the con­trol room!”) and the begin­ning of “from the orig­i­nal mas­ter tapes!” turn­ing up on record­ings. I was all in, and it’s a thrilling record­ing.

That thrill nev­er goes away, as demon­strat­ed with the above video of Robert Levin, recent­ly announced as the first Hog­wood Fel­low of the Acad­e­my, play­ing Mozart on Mozart’s own piano. Or rather, Mozart’s fortepi­ano, a small­er and much lighter ver­sion of the piano. It is two octaves short­er, and only sev­en feet long.

Mozart used this fortepi­ano for both com­pos­ing and per­form­ing from 1785 until his death in 1791. He wrote over 50 works on it. The instru­ment dates to 1782, built by Anton Wal­ter, one of the best-known piano mak­ers in Vien­na at that time. In 2012 it final­ly returned to Mozart’s Salzburg home (now a muse­um), hav­ing been in the pos­ses­sion of the Cathe­dral Music Asso­ci­a­tion and Mozar­teum for the major­i­ty of the years since the composer’s death.

“One writes for acousti­cal and aes­thet­ic prop­er­ties of the instru­ments at hand,” Levin says, explain­ing the Academy’s mis­sion and ide­ol­o­gy. Nat­u­ral­ly it fol­lows that Mozart sounds the best on Mozart’s instru­ment. The fortepi­ano is brighter and jaun­tier, and can be a rev­e­la­tion for those with the tal­ent and for­tune to play it. Levin says:

“So sit­ting down at Mozart’s piano, sit­ting down at an organ which Bach played him­self, you under­stand things about the weight of the keys going down and the rep­e­ti­tion and the bal­ance in sound. And all of these things bring you very, very close to the music and make you say ‘A‑ha, that’s why it’s writ­ten that way’, which is not the kind of thing you’re going to get if you’re play­ing on the stan­dard instru­ments that are being man­u­fac­tured today”

Levin is cur­rent­ly record­ing Mozart’s piano sonatas on this very fortepi­ano. The piece he plays in the video is Mozart’s Sonata No. 17 in B flat major KV 570 (3rd move­ment).

via Clas­sic FM

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Pieces Mozart Com­posed When He Was Only Five Years Old

Watch a Musi­cian Impro­vise on a 500-Year-Old Music Instru­ment, The Car­il­lon

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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