This CD is an exploration of piano fantasies by Mozart, Beethoven and others, performed on a fortepiano, so that it is possible to hear the music as it may have sounded to the composers themselves. Monica Jakuc has specialized for years in this music and these period instruments, and renders fine, authentic and extraordinarily musical performances. This recording is a very special treat for lovers of classical piano music.
About the Artist
Monica Jakuc (pronounced Ya-kutch) is the Elsie Irwin Sweeney Professor of Music at Smith College, where she has taught since 1969.
New York audiences first heard Ms. Jakuc at Alice Tully Hall in 1980 in "A Program of Twentieth-Century Music for Two Pianos" with colleague Kenneth Fearn. Her performance of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations at Merkin Hall was hailed by The New York Times as "an auspicious debut...one will observe Ms. Jakuc's career with more than usual interest." Her 1988 London debut included the premier of a piece written for her by Ronald Perera. She has toured Japan and Alaska and appears often on both U.S. coasts. Ms. Jakuc also delivers lecture-recitals on women composers and has been a featured artist at International Association of Women in Music concerts in London and Washington, D.C.
Inspired by Malcolm Bilson, Ms. Jakuc has performed on early pianos since 1986. She is a frequent guest artist at the E.M. Frederick Collection in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, and was an organizer and performer at the international HaydnFest 1990,
co-sponsored by Smith and the Westfield Center for Early Keyboard Studies. She is a frequent guest performer with Arcadia Players, Pioneer Valley’s early music ensemble, and often features her 6 1/2 –octave Paul McNulty Graf replica in Schubert concerts.
Ms. Jakuc's discography includes fortepiano sonatas by Marianne von Martinez, Marianna von Auenbrugger, and Joseph Haydn on Titanic Records, and Francesca LeBrun's complete Opus 1 Sonatas for fortepiano and violin, with Dana Maiben, on Dorian Discovery.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Ms. Jakuc received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Juilliard, where she studied with James Friskin and Beveridge Webster. She has also worked with Leon Fleisher, Russell Sherman, and Konrad Wolff, a pupil of Artur Schnabel.
About the Fortepiano
The fortepiano used in this recording, made in the year 2000 for Smith College is a 5 1/2 octave (FF – c’’’’) instrument made by Paul McNulty after the design of Walter & Sohn of Vienna. It is mahogany with brass trim, and features moderator and sustaining knee levers, the equivalent of pedals on the modern piano. The moderator inserts a piece of cloth between the hammer and the strings, thereby softening and mellowing the sound. The sustaining knee lever is the equivalent to the damper (right) pedal on the modern piano.
Paul McNulty, an American living in Divisov, Czech Republic, is one of the most highly respected builders working today.
The first pianos, made by Bartolomeo Cristofori about 300 years ago, were named pianoforte or fortepiano (soft-loud or loud-soft) because, unlike the harpsichord, they could play both soft and loud, with the dynamic controlled by the player’s touch. The only other keyboard instrument, with such touch control was the clavichord, whose overall sound was considered too soft for use in concert.
Contemporary usage has ironically shortened the modern instrument’s name to “piano,” and in the past twenty years the term “fortepiano” has come to signify historical pianos, or reproductions of historical pianos.
The earliest fortepianos had a range of five octaves (FF – f’’’), similar to that of the harpsichord. As time went on, this range increased, as can be seen most poignantly in the piano sonatas of Beethoven, in which the highest and lowest notes become farther and farther apart as the sonatas continue.
Because this McNulty fortepiano represents ideas from a number of different Walter instruments in existence around the turn of the 18th century, it is difficult to date itthough I like to attribute it to circa 1803. It is perhaps interesting to note that between 1780 and 1820 there were over 300 Viennese piano builders registered in the guild, and most of them did not date their work. The graceful curve of the Smith piano’s case is not a Walter feature, but rather typical of Ferdinand Hofmann, the guild president at that time.
Why I Play Fortepiano
Why do I play this fortepiano? Essentially for two reasons: because it is close to the instruments for which this music was composed, and because it casts new light on the music I have recorded.
The instrument used in this recording is perfectly suited to the “Moonlight” Sonata, composed in 1801. The other works I play might be more appropriate to the five-octave pianos that were used in the 1780s, but one plays what one has, and the differences between 5-octave and 5 ½-octave instruments are not that great. What is great is the difference between a fortepiano from circa 1803 and the modern piano from circa 1875 (by which time, except for a number of mechanical improvements, the modern piano had assumed its definitive shape).
What do we notice about this very beautiful instrument, so different from the modern piano? First, and most obviously, its size and scale. This fortepiano is physically far smaller and far more intimate than the modern piano. Its range is 5 ½ octaves rather than the current 7 ½ octaves. It is made almost entirely of wood, and needs no iron plates to accommodate the higher tension of the wider and thicker strings that give the modern piano its bigger, thicker and longer-lasting sound. The scale of the instrument matches the scale of the music written for it: early Beethoven is one thing, late Prokofiev, for example, quite another.
This instrument was made to be played in a relatively small room, which is why I have chosen to make the recording in my Morningside Music Room, and not in a large concert hall. Each note has a clear initial attack, a fast decay, and a clean release. A smaller, lighter hammer, covered with leather, not felt, produces the clear attack. The clear release results from dampers that are mostly covered with leather in the bass and middle range.
The life of the tone as described above is ideal for the detailed nuance and articulation of the music of the classic period; playing this instrument, I feel at ease in interpreting the notes and the spaces between the notes. Because I can control a greater variety and precision of releases and attacks, more tools are available to me than would otherwise be the case for the creation of expressive nuances.
On the early pianos, the keys are narrower, the key dip (the distance to the keybed from the top to the bottom of the stroke) is smaller, and the action is much lighter. These differences enable me to play the fast octave passages at the end of the Haydn Fantasia as octave glissandi, rather than as individual notes. The joy of the slide adds to the merriment that Haydn creates. Malcolm Bilson has said that the relationship between the musical message and the feel of the keyboard is a subtle but important one for interpretation. On the fortepiano, as Penny Crawford says, you don't project tone, but rather musical ideas and gestures.
The faster decay allows for the use of longer pedals. I have chosen to record the Adagio of the “Moonlight” Sonata without dampers, as Beethoven indicates at the beginning of the movement. With no pedal changes, some of the harmonies blur slightly and then clear, and certain kinds of moaning effects in the melody become noticeable. The resulting sound is ghostly, and to me, poignant. Playing the Adagio on the fortepiano allows me better to understand what Beethoven’s pupil Czerny wrote about the movement: “It is a night scene, in which the voice of a complaining spirit is heard at a distance.”
This fortepiano also has more attack or definition at the beginning of the sound, something that makes possible the incredible clattering excitement of the third movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata. As Malcolm Bilson has often said, the fortepiano, unlike the modern instrument, can growl. While the modern piano homogenizes everything, the early piano can misbehave and surprise: its register differences are more pronounced, and its tone has more variety of character at different dynamic levels. Well-defined attack and fast decay make possible clear textures: Alberti bass accompaniments in these pieces achieve an equality with the melody not heard on the modern piano.
In 1985, Will Crutchfield wrote in the NY Times:
"From this perspective, the most central virtue of historical performance practice is that it can offer performers a freedom of choice, a multiplicity of "right" ways to play. The specialization it demands can be liberating rather than limiting…. In contrast to the enervating, dully anarchic international melting pot, it offers the chance to create for oneself an interpretive process of discipline and integrity, and to develop individual freedom within a coherent style.”
For me, playing on this instrument has totally renewed my relationship to this music.
Notes on the Music
Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head
How begot, how nourished?
Shakespeare “Merchant of Venice”III/2
Since the sixteenth century, instrumental compositions called “fantasia” have been part of the western European musical tradition. Derived from the Greek word “phantasia,” meaning “product of the imagination”or “caprice,”these pieces tend to glorify subjectivity, and to manifest a rather free and improvisatory style, though more sectional forms also exist.
In the eighteenth century, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach became the leading exponent of the genre of the Fantasy. In his famous Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, J. S. Bach’s oldest son, the strongest proponent of the “Empfindsamer Stil,” or “style of sensitivity,” urges musicians to “play from the heart” (“aus der Seele”), in that way giving an answer to Shakespeare’s question: “A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. ”
During the classic period (roughly from the middle to the end of the eighteenth century), the aesthetic known as “Empfindsamkeit,”which embodied “Empfindsamer Stil,” remained the underlying inspiration for numerous works, including the fantasies on this recording. “Empfindsamkeit” implies intimacy, heightened sensibility, a stirring of the emotions. The contemporaneous and even more emotional aesthetic of the time was called “Sturm und Drang” (“Storm and Stress”), which attempted “to frighten, to stun, to overcome with emotion,”as Daniel Heartz writes in the New Grove. The “Sturm und Drang” movement was particularly associated with drama and dramatic effects, but its excesses certainly influenced some of the works on this CD, notably parts of the Mozart C-Minor Fantasy, and the third movement of the celebrated “Moonlight” Sonata.
This recording opens with one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) most extraordinary, dramatic, and unusual masterpieces for solo keyboard, the Fantasy and Sonata in C Minor, K. 475 and 457. The sonata was completed in 1784; the fantasy, in 1785 (lthus explaining the two Koechel numbers); in the latter year Mozart determined to publish the works as a pair, thus apparently urging their immediately successive performance. Arthur Hutchings writes, “This fantasia is unique because no other piece by Mozart contains such strongly contrasted ideas in so short a space.” The work is shocking, and does not even sound like Mozart to ears conditioned to expect serene balance and grace from that composer. The Mozart who later depicted Donna Elvira’s madness in the opera “Don Giovanni” is the one who wrote this fantasy. Charles Rosen, while emphasizing the instability of the tonic or home key, writes that “it is a magnificent piece, but for once we have a work that is truly abnormal by classical standards.” The C-Minor Fantasy has a sectional form, with unexpected modulations, abrupt juxtapositions, an improvisatory cadenza, a deranged minuet, a passionate outburst, a recitative-like section with dramatic interruptions, and finally a return to the opening material to round out the form, which ends in a final rocket-like explosion of a C-Minor scale.
Though the fantasy can easily stand alone, its pairing with the sonata is fortuitous because the formal constraint of the sonata provides a kind of resolution of the preceding wildness of invention and tonal instability. The “Mannheim rocket” opening theme of the sonata, a rising C-Minor arpeggio, follows and mirrors the rocket-like ending of the fantasy. The sonata itself has many fantasy-like elements: abrupt changes and improvisatory moments in the third movement, and cadenza-like passages everywhere. The second movement, marked Adagio, provides a case study of improvised variation in the classic period, for Mozart has here written out a brilliant series of ornamental variations of the principal melody. The third movement is rapid, in 3/4 time, and it seems to me to foreshadow the scherzos we find in Beethoven. Mozart eventually adjusted the ending in order to quote a motive from the end of the Fantasy, thereby unifying the arc of this four-movement Fantasy/Sonata.
During his lifetime, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) was better known than his now far more famous father, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), from whose work, especially the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Philipp Emanuel learned the true meaning of “fantasy. Radical and daring modulations, sudden changes of mood, and a general feeling of improvisatory freedom characterize the more than twenty-three fantasies composed by the younger Bach. The Fantasy in C Major on this recording is from the sixth volume of pieces “fuer Kenner und Liebhaber” (“for Connoisseurs and Amateurs”). One of Emanuel Bach’s more well behaved works in this genre, it has a sectional form rather like the Mozart C-Minor Fantasy. In C. P. E. Bach’s Fantasy, a lively Presto di molto section appears three times, its theme careening through many different keys. These prestos are separated by slower sections of more intimate affect: a minuet-like Andante, and a heartfelt Larghetto sostenuto. The piece ends, barlines eliminated, in an elaborate cadenza-like arpeggio followed by a long slow scalar sigh; Bach abandons meter and finishes with the kind of fantastic freedom that gained for him an international reputation.
In his later years, in England, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) talked about his indebtedness to Emanuel Bach. Certainly Bach’s Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments was known to him, and his own Capriccio and Fantasia movements, including our Fantasy in C Major, make use of techniques espoused by Bach.
Bach writes, “It is felicitous in improvisation to appear to modulate to another key using a formal cadence, but then to take another turn. This and other deceptions make a fantasy good; only they must not happen all the time so that normal progressions are completely hidden by them.” Our Haydn Fantasy makes ample use of deception.
This is especially appropriate, since the main tune of the piece is the folksong, “Do Baeuren hat d’Katz valor’n,”in which a farmer’s wife tries to catch her clever cat. The hunting horn motives, crossed-hand register changes, and rising chromatic scales, as well as the generally Presto tempo, are devices that attempt to illustrate the text.
The piece is loyal to the basic principles of both rondo and sonata form, but none the less manifests devotion to the spirit of fantasy, with surprising key changes and abundant and abrupt modulations. On two occasions Haydn even asks the performer to hold a note until it no longer can sound. The playful octave glissandi at the end suggest that the cat is still having fun.
Haydn loved this work, and submitted it to his Viennese publisher, Artaria, with the following words: “In a humorous mood I have composed an entirely new capriccio for the piano; its good taste, singularity, and careful execution are sure to please both experts and amateurs. It is in a single movement, rather long, but not particularly difficult.” I beg to differ (having practiced long and hard before making this recording): perhaps Haydn wanted simply to persuade his publisher that the piece would not be difficult to sell.
Contrary to what many people believe, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) did not give a title to his Sonata Quasi una Fantasia, Op. 27 No. 2, which we know as the “Moonlight” Sonata. The critic Ludwig Rellstab is credited with saying that the piece reminded him of moonlight on Lake Lucerne, and that title has stuck. Given the remark by Carl Czerny which I quote below (“Why I Play the Fortepiano”) the title is not inappropriate, and it has become far too much a part of our everyday parlance to relinquish.
The two piano sonatas that Beethoven published under Op. 27 are entitled “quasi una fantasia,” and both have unusual movement structures that are intended to be played without pause: the composer specifically instructs the performer to begin each successive movement attacca (immediately).which are meant to be continuously played. The composer instructs the performer to begin each succeeding movement attaca, (immediately). The classic period configuration that Beethoven inherited tended to give greatest weight to the first movement, which was usually cast in a form later designated as “sonata form.” It is clear in the Op. 27 sonatas that Beethoven is experimenting, trying out new kinds of characters and movements, and looking for some other way to balance the sonata. The greater weight in these two sonatas is toward the last movement, which in the “Moonlight” is in sonata form. Beethoven biographer Paul Bekker writes that Beethoven must have felt that a sonata-form first-movement hindered his desire “to give free rein to his fancy, to improvise, not only in a single movement, but with absolute freedom throughout a multiple form.”
Though it does have a clear structure, with a definite recapitulation and a carefully articulated tonal arch, this sonata’s famous first movement is still improvisatory in its effect. The second movement, famously described by Franz Liszt as “a flower between two abysses,” is an interlude with the character of a scherzo. The last movement provides the climax of the sonata in a burst of agitation.
A contemporary Leipzig review of the sonata says, “This fantasy is from beginning to end one pure whole, rising out of the deepest emotions of the soul, carved from a solid block of marble. There cannot be a single person in any way sensitive to music who can fail to be seized by the first Adagio, led up and up and finally, deeply moved, sublimely uplifted in the Presto agitato, affected as one can be affected only by free-form piano music.”
As I prepared this recording, I was especially struck by the importance of the silences incorporated into the music, and began to feel that my interpretations turned more on how I dealt with the rests than on how I played the notes. I asked myself what kind of energy is embodied in a rest? Is a rest a coming together or resolution of the previous phrase or section? Is it a suspension of movement? Is it an anticipation or preparation of what is to come? If so, what is the character of that anticipation or preparation?
In my view the role of silence evolves in the works that comprise this CD. Mozart and especially C.P.E. Bach share a commitment to exposing the underside of the sound, to framing sound with expectant and suspended silence. Haydn sometimes suspends in the rests, but more often halts on a note that is to be held “until it can no longer be heard.” In the third movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata, Beethoven, too, employs fermatas to suspend notion before plunging into more madness. The unsettled anxiety and agitation of the outer movements of the Beethoven leave no room for silence or space, and the only respite from continuous sound, brief as it is, comes in the quarter rests of the second movement.