- Adagio for piano in B minor, K. 540
- Piano Sonata No. 15 in C major ("Sonata semplice") K. 545
- Piano Sonata No. 16 in B flat major, K. 570
- Fantasia (Capriccio) for piano in C major, H. 17/4
- Keyboard Sonata in C major, H. 16/48
- Keyboard Sonata in E flat major, H. 16/49
This is a period-instrument performance with a truculent defense in the booklet of the use of the fortepiano in Mozart and Haydn; the artist, Flemish-Belgian keyboardist Jos van Immerseel, charges modern-piano partisans with "historical absurdity" at one point. Faced with dogmatism of this kind, one is naturally tempted to ask whether the bird noises interspersed throughout the recording, especially apparent in Immerseel's very deliberate and spacious slow movements, likewise represented the outcome of some kind of quest for historical authenticity. One wonders how the engineers managed to get birdsong into a recording made in the Elzenveld, an Antwerp conference center, but the nobles in whose houses these Mozart and Haydn pieces were originally performed might indeed have had birds in their elegant gardens. Be that as it may, Immerseel offers a textbook demonstration of the fortepiano's benefits here. Some of the fortepiano advantages he proposes are debatable, but listeners will generally agree upon two of them: the smaller key action of the fortepiano gives ornaments a fluidity and sparkle that they lack on a modern grand, and the match between the pitch ranges of music and instrument results in a delightful variety of timbres across the keyboard. The scales and runs in Immerseel's two Mozart sonatas are smooth and gentle, and the lengthy slow movement of the "Piano Sonata in B flat major, K. 570," and the even more lugubrious "Adagio in B minor, K. 540," can stand up to Immerseel's very gloomy treatment because the instrument reins the pianist in. The proto-Beethovenian traits in the Haydn keyboard works (the "Fantasia in C major, Hob. 17/4," is both the most forward-looking and the least familiar of them) likewise benefit from the distinct sounds of bass, keyboard center, and high ornament that Immerseel's instrument, a copy of a 1790 Walter fortepiano, displays. All the music here comes from between 1788 and 1790, and is thus perfectly suited chronologically to the instrument used. Unless you think fortepiano performances are for the birds, give these a try, especially the Haydn "Fantasia," track 8.