Mommy, What's a Fortepiano?

  golden in all but sound?

golden in all but sound?

Heard a beautiful recital last night at Queen Elizabeth Hall from Steven Isserlis and Robert Levin.  It was the second installment of their weekend traversal of the Beethoven works for piano and cello.  The playing, on the part of both these outstanding musicians, was superbly imaginative and always tasteful.  What I wanted to note in particular was the effortless balance (well, it felt effortless, at any rate) between the cello and the fortepiano used by Levin.  Gone was the Promethean struggle inherent in any cello recital, adjuring the balance gods to overcome the monstrous acoustic advantage of the modern pianoforte (the confusing terminology doesn’t help, by the way).  Now, I am not, myself, an ardent fan of the fortepiano (which itself comes in dazzling varieties), chiefly because of its famously tinny sound.  But any of us who play this music on the modern behemoths can draw much profit from even a passing acquaintance with their fragile ancestors, most especially when considering what kind of balance Beethoven really intended.