W. A. Mozart: Keyboard duets, volume 1
Resonus Classics (RES10172)
Julian Perkins joins Emma Abbate to record the first volume of Mozart's complete keyboard duets on original instruments.
Some of Mozart’s lesser-known works, his keyboard duets span most of his active life, with the earliest written at the age of nine. Often delightful and lyrical as well as humorous and exciting, these works are given an authentic air on period instruments. Included on this first volume are duets in D major K 381, C major K 521 and B-flat major, K 358. Also included is a duet by Johann Christian Bach, with whom the infant Mozart is alleged to have played keyboard duets whilst sitting on the older composer's lap.
The two original instruments used on this recording form part of the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments: a grand fortepiano by Johann Fritz (Vienna, c1815) and a travelling piano by Anton Walter (Vienna, c1805). This album represents the final recording made at Finchcocks Musical Museum, and has featured on BBC Radio 3.
Audio samples and booklet are available at Resonus Classics
'Julian Perkins & Emma Abbate play with a delightful sense of the often playful quality of these pieces, revelling in the power and vitality of the faster Italianate movements as well as the gentler central slow movements, notably in the beautifully lyrical Adagio from the concluding Sonata in B-flat, played with impressive sensitivity. Their ability to play in perfect time together is exemplary – apart from the much richer sound of the pianos, it is difficult to appreciate that two people are playing, rather than just one. For an insight into the lesser-known side of Mozart’s playing and compositional life, this is thoroughly recommended. It is also a timely recognition of the work of Richard and Katrina Burnett over the past 45 years in creating such an important musical instrument museum at Finchcocks.'
'Successful piano duet playing places particular demands on the performers and here the two pianists are working very well together. This is a programme of more substantive works written for this particular genre. As well as the Sonatas in C major, D major & Bb major the programme also includes Johann Christoph Bach’s two movement Sonata in A major. A second volume, also on period instruments, is to follow.'
'...excellent in all respects. The Fritz piano has full and gracious tonal qualities generously exploited by Julian Perkins (who plays primo throughout) and Emma Abbate, who especially relish exploiting the colours produced by the many imitative exchanges Mozart gives the players. Cantabile Mozartian lines are also beautifully drawn; listen for example to Perkins’ playing of the principal theme of the exquisitely lovely Adagio of K358, the kind of writing that would soon be finding its way into the central movements of the piano concertos. Both players are also untroubled by greater technical demands of K521, the big episode of the central Andante opening out to glorious blossom under the hands of Perkins and Abbate. The square piano on which the little J. C. Bach sonata is played is obviously a more modest instrument, but it has an attractively wheezy bass and the two-movement sonata, consisting of an Allegretto in the fashionable sentimental style and a breezy minuet, is ideal for this repertoire.
It is worth adding that all repeats are taken, allowing the performers ample opportunity to add ornamentation, which is always tastefully and not infrequently wittily added. The sound is a little close, but very much in line with what I remember as ‘the Finchcocks sound’. I await volume 2 with considerable anticipation.'
Early Music Review
From 1971 to 2015, the Finchcocks Musical Museum near Goudhurst in Kent was home to a collection of over 100 keyboard instruments plus related artefacts. The instruments ranged from harpsichords, virginals and clavichords to cottage pianos, early grand pianos and barrel organs. Set in an Arcadian oasis, Finchcocks put on thousands of varied events and was a global mecca for both the curious uninitiated and the touring virtuoso. The Finchcocks Charity for Musical Education, founded in 1984, retains a core collection of fourteen instruments from the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments (Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate used two of these instruments for the first volume of their recording of Mozart’s piano duets). The charity will continue to sponsor research projects and to work with students, with a particular – and much-needed – focus on training a new generation of early keyboard instrument restorers, tuners and technicians. Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins are honoured to be playing a part in the charity’s future.
Photo: Paul Carter
A Personal Tribute
I first came to Finchcocks aged twelve and, like innumerable visitors, was enthralled by the veritable menagerie of instruments on which one could actually play at this living museum. Never a fusty institution, Finchcocks always encouraged active participation, and I clearly remember once indulging in far too much hearty food in their Cellar Restaurant before playing the recorder in the annual ‘Young Performers Recital’! A regular guest at Open Days, I will always be grateful to Finchcocks for nurturing my passion for original keyboard instruments. I wrote an article about Finchcocks and the indefatigable Richard and Katrina Burnett for the magazine Early Music Today in 2006, and introduced Emma Abbate to the wayward delights of early keyboards when we performed at Finchcocks on a Clementi square piano in 2007 – our first concert together.
The recording that I made of Mozart’s piano duets with Emma Abbate in November 2015 was the last to be made at Finchcocks. I speak for a host of musicians and music lovers in expressing relief that the sale of this Georgian ‘mini-mansion’ is not by any means the end of the story, but rather the end of a remarkable chapter.
The Great Hall at Finchcocks, in which Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins made their recording.
Photo: Geoffrey Partner