The last two years, we have encountered three special, extraordinary recordings by three distincitve pianists, comparing the same repertory of various periods, performed on different instruments (authentic and new/er):
- In September 2012, the good pianist Paolo Giacometti released a thorough and demanding program with works by Ravel, performed on an Erard of the late 19th century and a Steinway Grand, on Channel (2 SACDs).
- In December 2012, Genuin released a superb double CD with Paul Badura-Skoda, performing the last Sonata in B flat (D.960) by Schubert, played on a Fortepiano Conrad Graf Grand of about 1826, a Steinway Grand and a Bosendorfer Imperial of 1923 (of the soloist's collection). On the first two instruments the First Movement of the Sonata is played with the repeats; on the Bosendorfer, it is played without them, so that the listeners can judge by themselves how the Sonata sounds on various instruments and with or without the repeats.
- About three months ago, Andras Schiff released an extraordinary, almost audacious double CD, on ECM, with the Diabelli Variations, performed on an original Franz Brodman Fortepiano of about 1820 and on a Bechstein of 1921!
Giacometti mentions that, while at home he has a Steinway, when, at his early years, he got to know authentic instruments, a new world of timbres and expressive potential was revealed to him. A "stimulating crossfertilisation", as he called it. The reason he chose the two instruments of his recording is because Ravel used to know both of them well (he performed on Steinway in public and he had an Erard at home).
Badura-Skoda states that he recorded Schubert's last Sonata on three instruments..."simply because of the uniqueness of this sonata. It transcends the nature of the piano: even the best instrument (played with authority) cannot give full justice to its meaning; but each one brings different facets to the fore", noting that the "authentic colourful sound of the excellent Conrad Graf Grand of Schubert's time might be historically the closest"...
Andras Schiff, in his imaginary interview (questions and answers) entitled "only from the pure source", he claims that a "good Steinway in the right hands is a marvellous piano, but not for everything. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert require more than power, brilliance and cool objectivity". He claims that the Bechstein, which was used by Backhaus and was Schnabel's preferred choice, "represents a long forgotten world", while with the Fortepiano, "we are right at the source. Vienna, 1820"..."On it the music sounds fresher, bolder and infinitely more subtle". He continues with some more intriguing and daring claims...
I just wanted to share the above information with our fellow-members with a view to showing that the truth might be one, but its facets are quite a few, and it is a true revelation to discover any new aspect of it. In case anyone of you have any thoughts, questions, views etc. you are most welcome.