Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 6; No. 14, “
No. 13; No. 17,
Yoko Kaneko (fp)
ANIMA ANM/080600001 (70:36)
We are now well into a newer, more broadly cultured generation of early-instrument performance. This exciting new release of Beethoven sonatas is an excellent example of an approach that encompasses scholarship, comfortable familiarity with the instrument, and an unabashedly personalized manner
that is completely respectful to the composer. Yoko Kaneko is a Japanese-born pianist who studied at the famed Toho-Gakuen Institute in Tokyo and continued her education in Paris with Yvonne Loriod and Michel Béroff. She recently acquired a copy of an Anton Walter (the Vienna-based builder favored by Mozart) instrument made by Christopher Clarke, and has performed and recorded Mozart concerti to no little acclaim. She uses that keyboard for this new release.
From an authenticity point of view, this is the right choice of instrument. The latest work here, “Tempest,” was completed in 1802, when Beethoven was still using a Viennese instrument, and just before he switched to the French maker Erard. Later still, he used the more robust Broadwood, which was a gift from the British manufacturer. This is more than an academic point; the difference in sound between these instruments is not subtle. The technology of piano-making, I would argue, changed more during Beethoven’s lifetime than it did for the next two centuries, from a purely aural perspective. The Walter reproduction, with its much lighter timbre and distinctively woodsy color, is radically different to the ear from what we perceive as piano sound today, whereas the Broadwood sounds much more like a close relative of the modern instrument.
This has important practical applications, and Kaneko, like any diligent period-instrument player, understands this. The salient difference, to my ears, occurs in the texture of the music. A performer on a modern Steinway has to struggle to bring out the inner voices in this music, but on a fortepiano this kind of clarity is displayed naturally. It would not be an understatement to say that this sparkling lucidity transforms the music, or, perhaps more accurately, brings us closer to the composer’s vision. Then there is the actual sound of the struck strings, which is what I mean by timbre and color. The palette is very different from that prototypical Steinway, and once again, it is so to the extent that it is easy to conclude that an entirely different character is revealed in the music. These differences are evinced in specific ways in the music; the Haydnesque op. 10/2 Sonata bristles with playful joy, while the ubiquitous first movement of the “Moonlight” is now revealed stripped of sentimentality, and all the more sturdy for this disrobing.
Kaneko also demonstrates the unavoidable reality that even as she rediscovers new layers in this great music via the period instrument, she must reflect the heritage of the countless vital performances that precede her and pervade our sense of who Beethoven was as an artist. It is a wonder that she conveys all of these influences in a beautifully cohesive package. If you are still resisting the siren call of period-instrument performance, this completely captivating recording might be the one to push you over the edge.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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