George Malcolm and András Schiff play Mozart’s piano music for four hands on Mozart’s own fortepiano, eventually inherited by his son Carl Mozart, who donated it to the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1855. In his letter to the Mozarteum, Carl recalls his father’s affection for the instrument.
“More remarkable … is the wing-shaped Pianoforte which I own and for which my father had a special preference to such a degree that he not only wanted to have it in his study all the time but exclusively used this and no other instrument in all his concerts, regardless whether they took place at Court, at the palaces of noble statesmen or at the theatre and other public places. By the way, this instrument is also interesting insofar as it is one of the first so-called Fortepianos with hammer action made by the at that time famous Anton Walter.”
George Malcolm, the great English harpsichordist, taught András Schiff in London. Malcolm was a pioneer in the use of early keyboard instruments for the performance of 17th and 18th century music. In the early days Schiff, like many pianists of his generation, was hesitant to embrace the revival of interest in early instruments. He recalls his eventual “conversion”:
“What converted me was when I first played Mozart’s piano in Salzburg, in the room where he was born…It was the first time I met an instrument — an original instrument, not a copy — that was in wonderful condition.”
Here are Decca’s notes on the recording:
“Recorded at: Mozart Museum, Salzburg, February 1993. Performed on Mozart’s own fortepiano, played by him during the last years of his life. It was made in Vienna by Anton Walter c. 1780 and is 99 cm wide, 224 cm long and 86.5 cm high. The case is largely of walnut; only the spine is of spruce with a walnut veneer on the interior surface. The instrument has a Viennese action, the hammers are covered in leather, and the keyboard has a range of five octaves from F1 to f'”. The natural keys are made of ebony, the sharp keys of inlaid ivory. The notes F1 to G sharp’ are double-strung, a’ to f'” triple-strung. The dampers are operated by two knee levers, the left one controlling only the bass, the right the entire keyboard. The notes with double-stringing are damped by wooden wedges, those with triple-stringing by cloth tufts. Both types of damper are covered with a thin layer of deer hide. The mute stop, operated by a knob on the face of the instrument, works by drawing a strip of woven felt between the hammers and the strings to produce a particularly mellow and velvety tone.”