Jan Swafford has recently written two interesting (albeit lengthy) posts on Slate.com‘s music channel that I thought I’d share with you. The first is about a unique collection of 19th century pianos in Massachusetts and their keepers, Pat and Michael Frederick, and how playing composers’ works on the pianos they wrote them for is a much different experience than hearing them on, say, a modern Steinway. It’s an enjoyable read, and best of all there are lots of music clips of performances on the older pianos to demonstrate the difference. The recording of the “Moonlight” Sonata on a Viennese piano from 1805 is a little disappointing–it’s very quiet, and there are lots of other ambient noises that obscure much of the effect–but the following recording comparing the modern and older pianos playing the “Appassionata” Sonata is much better and shows a very discernible difference in tone quality, especially in the lower register. The remaining comparisons are all pretty cool and worth a listen; and the closing remarks about the current homogeneity in piano brand sales and tone quality is also insightful.

“Why you’ve never really heard the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata”

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    Idhrendur on 04.27.2010

    Those are startling differences. But not terribly surprising once learned: as a percussionist, I’ve long known that subtle differences in timbre can make a huge difference in musical effectiveness.

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