Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Introducing Mozart’s Fortepiano

Thu 19 Jul 2018

“It really changes the way we think about the music”.

Our Co-Principal Keyboard, Steven Devine, introduces the predecessor of the modern piano, the fortepiano.

It’s the type of instrument Haydn, Mozart and the young Beethoven would have known and composed for.

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Mozart’s Eroica: audience reaction and reviews

Tue 5 Mar 2013

We were honoured to welcome one of the world’s greatest pianists, András Schiff, to the stage on 25 February for two Mozart piano concertos.

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With its unique plucked sound, stately shape and often beautifully adorned exterior, the harpsichord is one of the most recognisable sounds and images of the glorious baroque.

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A tale of two pianos. Or to be more accurate, fortepianos…

Tue 28 Jun 2011

The two fortepianos for the Labeque sisters concert

Every time a project involving fortepianos appears on our advance schedule, my heart sinks a little – not because I don’t like the sound of them, or enjoy hearing some of the fantastic repertoire that was written for them, but fortepianos usually = logistical nightmare.   And this time there were 2 of them…

The quest to source two matching pianos started a couple of years ago.  We spoke to our usual suppliers and had sussed that there were a couple of pianos based in the UK – a copy of an Anton Walter piano (a piano maker based in Vienna around Mozart’s time), made by Paul McNulty, and also a copy of a Michael Rosenberger which might be a good match.  Katia Labèque was going to be in London at the end of January 2011 and so we arranged a session up at Craxton studios for her to trial them.  Perfect, we thought, the pianos could be used in the UK for the rehearsals, then we’d take them on tour to Luxembourg, Paris, Dublin and bring them back to London for our final concert at the RFH, then they could return to their owners. Simples. Except the pianos weren’t ideally matched in tone and timbre and so the quest continued.

Some months later we were notified that there was another piano based outside of Paris, which was also a Paul McNulty Walter copy, which could be an excellent match for one the one that Katia had already trialled.  Katia and Marielle knew this piano and so helped us get in contact with the owner to organise this (whilst wrestling with the fact that he did not speak English).

Superb, we now had 2 pianos for the tour, just shame that they are not in the same country, and that they both need to come to London or a 3 hour rehearsal with the orchestra before going to Luxembourg for the first concert… Oh well, all part of the joys of striving for top quality period instrument performance!

So… the eventual schedule for the pianos went as follows:

14th June – Driver leaves London with truck to head to Paris to pick up piano

15th June – French piano arrives at the Warehouse rehearsal venue in London so the sisters can have some private practice time, joined by the UK piano – united for the first time at last!

16th June – Pianos taken up to Kings Place for the OAE’s ‘tutti’ rehearsal.  After the rehearsal the pianos are loaded into the truck (with numerous double basses, cellos and timpani) and head off to Luxembourg.

17th June – Pianos arrive in Luxembourg in time for the rehearsal at the venue.

18th June – Quick hop across to Paris for a concert at the Champs Elysees.

19th June – Longer and rougher journey to Dublin, crossing the English Channel, most of the UK’s road network, followed by the Irish Sea.  Just as well there is no concert today (well the OAE are performing in Glyndebourne today but that’s a story for another blog).

20th June – Truck arrives in Dublin

21st June – Truck departs Dublin on first Ferry of the day back over to Anglesey, then starts the epic journey back to London.  Rehearsal is meant to start at 5pm, which incidentally […]

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The fortepianos have landed

Wed 15 Jun 2011

Anyone who knows us well will know that we don’t ‘do’ ordinary pianos. We use period pianos, in-keeping with our philosophy of being authentic. Ceri, our Projects Director, has promised to write a little blog about the pianos used on our upcoming tour with the Labeque sisters, so look out for it appearing here soon. In the meantime, today was our first rehearsal with the sisters and the Fortepianos, basically early versions of today’s piano, were looking rather splendid.

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