Menuetto I & II
Mozart wrote this sonata in 1774, when he was eighteen years old and still living with his family in Salzburg. The particular radiance of this piece first struck me when I was about twelve and my family got Wanda Landowska's recording. This was in the days of the Columbia Record Club, which distributed LPs (and even LP players) by mail so that even in the hinterlands of California (Garden Grove, next to a cabbage field!) one could hear things like this. I was just recovering from several months of deafness (brought on by ear infections) and I suspect that recordings like this one represented the (re)birth of hearing for me. I made this recording to try to capture something of my feeling for this piece and for Landowska's rendition (she was 77 at the time). I intentionally did not listen to it again until after making this recording; I was struck by her freedom (and lovely ornamented repeats), by wonderful personal twists that I had not remembered. I hope I have captured some of the radiance and joy she first conveyed to me. And I hope my grandson Felix enjoys it too.
Recorded June 2018 on Steinway M-237997 1925.
Piano technician: Roger Pierce
Line Audio Design (Sweden) CM3 cardioid microphones
Mastered in Presonus Studio One from complete takes
Live performance at Killian Hall, MIT, May 1, 2008
"Gentlemen, old Bach is here." Thus spoke Frederick II, King of Prussia, "with some agitation," on learning that Johann Sebastian Bach had arrived to play for him. The music-loving monarch offered Bach a "royal theme" (perhaps composed by Bach's son Carl Phillip Emmanuel, the king's resident composer) as a subject for improvisation on the then-novel pianoforte (on whose design the keyboard builder Silbermann had consulted J. S. Bach, who found its tone weak). Frederick was a partisan of the Enlightenment, himself anti-Christian, a devotee of flute music in the fashionable galant style, so different from Bach's intricate polyphony. During his visit, Bach improvised a three-part fugue for the king, including a passage in galant style; on returning home, he prepared a whole series of treatments of the royal theme that he called Musical Offering. Among these are two ricercari, or learned fugues, one in three voices (probably a version of Bach's improvisation) and the other in six voices, a transcendent masterwork, constructed with consummate art and deeply expressive. This, perhaps the earliest work written for the piano, may well be the greatest as well.
© ℗ 2018 Peter Pesic. All rights reserved.