Andreas Staier Plays
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Andreas Staier, a well-known and frequently recorded player, has achieved wide recognition both as harpsichordist and fortepianist. His recordings from the early 1990s of selected Haydn sonatas and other works on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi label continue to be favorites in my recording library.
On this issue, Staier plays some not so well known early works, as well as the CPE Bach-like Fantasie In C Minor, and Mozart's Sonata in c minor K 457. He is very well recorded, playing a 1986 copy by Monika May of a Walter fortepiano from circa 1785.
Mozart's solo piano pieces, with some exceptions (particularly K 533 and 576), are usually not quite ranked among his greatest compositions. Many of them are viewed as pieces composed for his titled students/patrons, rather than pieces he would have written for his own performance purposes. They tend not to rise to the transcendent level of his piano concerti or the piano and violin sonatas.
Staier gives fine and virtuosic performances on this recording. His playing is finely controlled, never becoming brittle or evidencing any struggles or awkwardness (as often is the case on the fortepiano, a difficult instrument to master). His mastery of the wide range of timbres of the fortepiano is excellent; especially so in the last movement of the sonata in c minor K 457, where he is at times gentle and at times makes the instrument roar when it should. There is nothing to fault here. While the first half of the program didn't win me over, that seems to me the fault of the music, not the performer. His playing of the C minor Fantasie and the subsequent sonata K 457 is quite fine. He plays the molto allegro with the dash and panache it needs; it is suitably exciting in his hands. And the brief and odd Gigue in G Major, K 574, is a wonderful treat.
Staier excels in the fast movements; his excellent keyboard facility serves him well and he produces sparkling and effective textures. In the slower movements he plays well, but I find some others are able to imbue the music with more soul and expression. Staier's playing tends to be a little stern in manner.
I have to confess to a preference for other Mozart interpreters on the fortepiano; Patrick Cohen for his spontaneity and puckishness, and Richard Fuller (who has three excellent recordings of Mozart on the Palatine label) for his graceful gentleness and uniquely personal approach to Mozart's music.