Divine Art Athene series
Period instrument recordings
When Joanna Leach inherited a Clementi square piano, it was out of curiosity and for its historical interest that she decided to have it restored. Having only experienced square pianos in poor condition or badly restored, it had never occurred to her that she would actually prefer playing works of classical and early romantic composers on original period pianos. It was during her quest for an expert restorer that she met Andrew Lancaster. Andrew specialises in the restoration of English square pianos of the period circa 1760-1840: he lays great emphasis on the importance of using authentic materials in the restoration work, to ensure that action and sound are as faithful as possible.
As instruments were restored, Joanna Leach had the opportunity to play them and she became increasingly fascinated with the influence that the pianos imposed on a player's performance by their inherent characteristics. Joanna Leach is convinced that modern replicas lack some of these important subtleties because of the tendency to try to ‘improve’ the mechanism and smooth out the natural differences within the keyboard range. She discovered that music composed in the18th and early 19th centuries, took on new meaning and life when played on pianos of the same period with their transparency and contrasting colours in the various registers. For example the Field Nocturnes sound more delicate and charming when played on an original piano and in Dussek's Duos Concertants, the period harp and piano converse in an exciting interplay, blending in a way probably impossible when performed on modern instruments. There is also the fact that the sound colours and balance on these instruments are similar to those heard by the composers at that time. As Peter Katin has said the modern pianist has to re-think many of his ideas when playing music of the period on square pianos. “It is illuminating for any serious pianist to play one of these instruments, even briefly; it may forever influence their performances of these works on the modern piano”.
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