Richard Troeger, John van Buskirk Trace Piano's History

CDs part of Lyrichord label's Early Music Series.

This being the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano, recordings of

the instrument will be flooding the market during the year. For the history-minded music lover, the small Lyrichord label has recently issued two CDs

that trace the evolution of the piano.

Each disc — part of the label's Early Music Series, features a

predecessor of the piano, with expert performers in the period music that

shows off the instrument's particular qualities.

J.S. Bach: The Seven Toccatas, with

color="#003163">Richard Troeger playing the clavichord, is also

the second volume in the label's Bach on Clavichord series. The CD

features up-close recordings that catch the smallest sonic nuances of the


The clavichord is a gentle-voiced keyboard, audible mostly to the player and

listeners within a few feet of him. Pressure from the keys is applied directly to

the strings and can be maintained (unlike the harpsichord and fortepiano),

allowing a variety of dynamic and color nuances. It even permits the player

to "bend" notes, such as a blues guitarist (though this is generally

considered a no-no in J.S. Bach's

music). Troeger plays expressively, with brilliant technique.

The Art of the Forte Piano, with John van

Buskirk, documents what pianos sounded like in the lifetimes of

Mozart and

color="#003163">Beethoven in the late 18th and early 19th

centuries. It features sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven,

color="#003163">Muzio Clementi and

color="#003163">Johann Christian Bach (son of Johann

Sebastian; friend and early model for Mozart).

The instrument is a lot smaller and more fragile than the modern concert

grand. Its keyboard had only about five octaves (the exact range varied

slightly from one model to another). Its structure was relatively fragile

(Beethoven used to destroy keyboards with the power of his playing). And

the voicing was frequently less homogeneous from one octave to another,

giving an added dimension to passages of dialogue between the left and

right hands. These performances are rendered in the appropriate period