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C P E Bach & Haydn

CPE Bach Fantasia in C Wq. 59
Haydn Piano Sonata in C HXVI:50
Haydn Variations in F minor HXVII:6
Haydn Piano Sonata in Eb HXVI:52

Melvyn Tan fortepiano

Wigmore Hall, 27 December 2009

Wigmore Hall's Sunday Coffee Concerts are popular and the one after Christmas always well attended.

Melvyn Tan, a frequent visitor to Wigmore Hall, has maintained a career on both modern and early pianos, and has recently been reviewed for his recording of Mozart's Concerto No 1. For Christmastide this year he played a Walter/McNulty fortepiano which proved the absolutely ideal piano for Wigmore Hall. A beautiful instrument from Maggie Cole's collection, it is similar to that illustrated, and it looked magnificent on the platform.

Heard from the back the sound was full in forte and delightfully clear in pianissimo, but moving to the front (where one could watch Tan's knee-pedalling) it was not overwhelming, in contrast to the frequent discomfort experienced in piano recitals on Grand Pianos there.

After preluding with the Bach Fantasia, the rest of the morning was devoted to some of Haydn's greatest piano works, a sequence which for many listeners may have put Mozart's sonatas in a new context. Tan played them with the greatest attention to detail and found freedom to explore the kaleidoscopic changes of mood.

A superlative hour's music making which will have made numerous new friends for the early keyboard movement, each piece realised ideals but imagined in one's own striving to play them at home, as I have done through a musical lifetime. Everyone was totally captivated and an ovation at the end from the sold-out audience persuaded Tan, at the third time of asking, to play another Haydn fast movement.

This concert, in the week when we welcomed the inauguration of Geoffrey Lancaster's complete Haydn sonata series on Tall Poppies, reinforced my hope that the coming year may mark at Wigmore Hall the death-knell of the ubiquitous Steinway in this repertoire. Yesterday's audience will need little persuading that copies of contemporary instruments serve the music far better.

Two regrets; London's winter coughers were in fine voice for the last Sunday of the year and it was sad to learn from Melvyn Tan that he now gives only occasional performances on fortepiano...

Peter Grahame Woolf