Treasures of the Empfindsamkeit
All too often the extraneous noises involved in both the operation and the recording of a clavichord can be louder than the instrument itself. On this disc, the Haydn C minor Sonata finale’s bravura right-hand runs sound as if they’re being accompanied by chopsticks. But if you can get past these considerations, you’ll be rewarded by Carole Cerasi’s impressive musicality and technical control of a Hoffmann clavichord from 1784, housed at Hatchlands Park, and heard for the first time here on a commercial release.
Listeners familiar with Cerasi’s 1998 CPE Bach recording on harpsichord and fortepiano (7/00) will find her clavichord interpretations of this composer equally lively and brash. L’Aly Rupalich’s rapid dynamic alterations really rock out here, and so do the left-hand broken octave ostinatos: Billy Joel, take note! All 12 minutes of the Freye Fantasie teem with drama, from the stark and intense slow sections to the wildly dispatched toccata-like passages. Cerasi plays all three movements of the E minor Sonata sensationally, exploiting the instrument’s twangy sonorities at full-tilt.
In Muthel’s Arioso and Variations, Cerasi’s agogic stresses and carefully considered accents intensify embellishments and key isolated single notes in the bass without sounding the least mannered. Although the sustaining power of a fortepiano or concert grand better suits the operatic qualities of Mozart’s B minor Adagio, modern pianists can learn plenty from Cerasi’s shaping of long crescendos and diminuendos, or her judging of silences for maximum effect – qualities that also distinguish the Haydn C minor Sonata. To quote Virgil Thomson approving a friend’s cuisine: ‘This is no kids’ stuff!’