LEGACY: THE SPIRIT OF BEETHOVENThe Composer's Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven, Carl Czerny, Felix Mendelssohn
GWENDOLYN MOK, piano
1795 Louis Dulcken pianoforte, Vienna [A=430]
1823 Broadwood & Sons pianoforte, London [A=430]
1868 Érard pianoforte, Paris [A=435]
Piano tuner and technician: Erik Siverson
Period pianoforte instruments
“[Gwendolyn Mok's] live performances and recordings of [Ravel's] music have drawn considerable praise from across the globe. With this disc she ventures into quite different territory: she selects one of Beethoven's more challenging early sonatas, and a mixture of interesting works, all with some connection to Beethoven... The Beethoven Second Sonata is a challenging piece to be sure and what a performance Mok delivers: she plays the first movement with brisk tempos and a deft sense for Beethoven's earthy humor, and while other pianists, like Brendel, Barenboim, Ashkenazy, and James Brawn play with a somewhat more suave and less aggressive manner, Mok makes her more vigorous way work splendidly, as she consistently captures the wit and energy, the effervescence and sparkle with all manner of nuance and gradations of dynamics... I must declare this is a performance to rank with the best I've heard in recent years... Mok seems a natural and very persuasive Beethoven player. [In Mendelssohn's 1841 Variations Serieuses] Mok plays brilliantly, capturing the agitated drive and sense of restlessness with crisp articulation and astonishing digital nimbleness. [Liszt's] transcriptions are convincingly played by Mok. [The Fantasie and Nocturne] are, again, very well played by the pianist. The sound reproduction is excellent in all works. Gwendolyn Mok is a young artist with exceptional talent, and if the mixed repertory here appeals to you, this disc will certainly deliver rewards.”
Robert Cummings, Classical Net [September 2016]
“This is a terrific disc on all counts. Gwendolyn Mok not only reveals many fine aspects of the instruments she has chosen to play but, more importantly brings strong and fresh interpretations. The detailed recording is well-nigh perfect, bringing the different tone and texture of each instrument.”
Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer [June 2016]
[ + + + + ] “It is a particularly salutary experience to hear composers’ music on the instruments for which they wrote it... when a performer is as good as pianist Gwendolyn Mok on a new MSR Classics release, there is pleasure both from the readings themselves and from the context in which they are presented. Mok’s disc is called “The Spirit of Beethoven,” and for once, this is an “overview” title that actually fits the music and does not feel forced... Mok’s [Beethoven] shows quite clearly how deeply rooted Beethoven was in the Classical era... this music sounds all the better [on the fortepiano] in a strange time-traveling way, when performed on the sort of instrument for which Beethoven wrote it. This is equally true for Liszt’s transcription of the song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, played here on an 1823 Broadwood & Sons instrument.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [June 2016]
“Gwendolyn Mok makes use of three beautiful sounding period pianos... The period pianos and Gwendolyn Mok's subtle reading of them give us a Beethoven and an early romantic way that remains connected to its classical roots, shows a beautifully singing style... All the works meld together as an impressive, privileged ear-side view of what indeed the early period of Beethoven's legacy sounded like... There is a blend of registers but a distinct heterodox multi-voiced timbral quality, too. You hear a different kind of balance as you listen to Ms. Mok and the piano responses. It is like hearing the music anew. It is a joy of an album, a triumph for Gwendolyn Mok and the repertoire as well. Beethoven no doubt would have loved this disk! Highly recommended.”
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review [June 2016]
“The program is...played with passionate intensity by Gwendolyn Mok. As always with recordings like this, the timbral contrasts between the instruments used will be of particular interest to students and instructors in keyboard programs.”
Rick Anderson, CD HotList [June 2016]
“This recital is a triumph in multiple ways. Mok is a supremely musical player, the recording is excellent and notes by Patricia Stroh, curator of the F. Brilliant Center, as wonderfully knowledgeable. Recommended.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [May/June 2016]
PROGRAM NOTESLAURENCE LEWIS INTERVIEWS GWEN MOK
Ludwig van Beethoven’s profound impact on the musicians who followed him is difficult to exaggerate. He has influenced countless composers and performers —as well as poets, artists, writers, and philosophers—from his own time to the present, in ever expanding circles that spread throughout Europe to eventually encompass the globe. Perhaps none felt Beethoven’s influence more, however, than those musicians who were in the center of those circles, particularly his own students and their musical progeny. These recordings by Gwendolyn Mok explore Beethoven’s influence as a pianist and composer for the pianoforte on three later nineteenth-century composer-pianists who were connected to him in varying degrees: Carl Czerny, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn. The recordings also demonstrate some of the developments in the pianoforte from the 1790s to the 1860s. Ms. Mok selected different historical keyboards to reveal the broad array of timbres available to pianists of the nineteenth century. Beethoven may have begun his musical studies being groomed as a performer at the pianoforte by his father, who organized the boy’s first public concert at the age of seven. When he moved to Vienna in 1792 to pursue his passion for composing music, his phenomenal skill on the pianoforte helped him gain entry to the palaces and patronage of the Viennese aristocracy. His early works— such as the three “Kürfursten” Sonatas composed in 1783, before his thirteenth birthday, and the sets of variations for pianoforte composed between 1782 and 1803—reveal his precocious command of the pianoforte of the 1780s.
ABOUT THE INSTRUMENTS
The pianofortes used in this recording are from the historical keyboard collection at The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and the School of Music and Dance at San Jose State University. Three instruments at the Beethoven Center represent pianofortes from Beethoven’s time, including a reproduction of a 1795 Viennese pianoforte by Jean-Louis Dulcken built by Janine Johnson and Paul Poletti in 1985 (gift of Irma and Ira Brilliant), an original 1823 English pianoforte by Broadwood & Sons (gift of the American Beethoven Society), and an original Viennese pianoforte built by Mathais Jakesch in 1827 (gift of James F. Green, Irma and Ira Brilliant, and other members of the Society). The collection in the School of Music and Dance has pianofortes dating primarily post-1860, including an 1861 English Érard, an 1868 French Érard, a 1871 Viennese Streicher and an 1878 Broadwood. These instruments are available to students for practice, performance and research on historical performance practices.
Born in New York City, Gwendolyn Mok has appeared in many of the world’s leading concert halls, including the Barbican, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Hong Kong Performing Arts Center. Mok is frequently invited to play and record with major international orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra and Residency Orchestra of the Hague. Renowned Ravel expert Vlado Perlemuter, who in 1927 sat with Ravel at the keyboard of his Erard grand piano and worked his way through the composer’s entire oeuvre, chose Mok to be the last student to whom he would pass on this special direct knowledge. Since 1995, she has been performing Ravel’s works in recital, as well as teaching them at the Royal College of Music, Welsh College of Music and Drama, Dartington International Summer School, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and elsewhere.
As a chamber musician, Mok appears regularly in the San Francisco Symphony Chamber Music Series, San Jose Chamber Society and Sacramento Chamber Society series. She collaborates often with members of the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra. A popular soloist with the Symphony Silicon Valley, Mok co-produced and appeared in four highly successful performances of The Gershwin Radio Hour. In 2008, she was presented the Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award by the College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University, where she is Area Coordinator of Keyboard Studies. Gwendolyn Mok began her studies at the Juilliard School, completed undergraduate work at Yale University and earned her Masters and Doctorate
at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Highly active as a recording artist, Mok can be heard on the Nonesuch/Elektra, Musical Heritage Society, MSR Classics, Cala Records and EMI labels. Her highly acclaimed debut CD of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major with the Philharmonia Orchestra on the Cala label was nominated for an Alternative Edison award. Another Cala recording of Saint-Saëns’s Africa—Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra with the London Philharmonic has been equally applauded. Two acclaimed solo CDs on the MSR Classics label featuring music of Ravel and Brahms recorded on historic pianos are broadcast frequently around the world.
[ www.gwendolynmok.com ]
PROGRAMLUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
PIANOFORTE SONATA NO.2 IN A MAJOR, OP.2, NO.2 (1795)
Scherzo (Allegretto) & Trio (Minore)
CARL CZERNY (1791-1857)
ERSTE FANTASIE AUF MOTIVE AUS BEETHOVENS WERKEN (1835)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
AN DIE FERNE GELIEBTE, OP.98
Transcribed for pianoforte by FRANZ LISZT (1849-1850) | S.469
NOCTURNE IN E-FLAT MAJOR, OP.647 (1841)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
VARIATIONS SÉRIEUSES IN D MINOR, OP.54 (1841)