Picks and Pans Review: Haydn: Two Great E-Flat Sonatas

updated 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Malcolm Bilson, fortepiano

When Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven sat down to the keyboard, it was not one of the nine-foot-long thunderers we know today but a smaller, simpler instrument known as a fortepiano. With its lighter wooden frame, more delicate stringing and four-or five-octave range, the fortepiano was an evolutionary bridge between the harpsichord and the piano. It possessed greater dynamic range than the harpsichord. It also had a lighter, brighter, clearer sound than the modern concert piano, which was perfected around 1860. This is Bilson's sixth recording on the fortepiano. A professor of piano at Cornell University, he demonstrates, as he has before, the unique appeal of the instrument. It sweeps away the muddiness of bass that afflicts music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries when it is played on a piano, and etches each detail in breathtaking relief. Bilson has been arguing persuasively for years that to truly understand the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, one has to hear it as they did. But he makes his most eloquent argument on this LP, with his hands. In these two big sonatas, each brimming with contrasting textures and ideas, he rises above novelty to make delightful music.

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