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Twenty Early Keyboards from the Mobbs Collection

Kenneth Mobbs


This is a sampler in the best sense of the word; as an introduction to, a calling card for an important private collection curated by a distinguished academic who is no mean performer, it is pretty well ideal. It is harder to recommend as a CD actually to purchase - especially at near full price; since it has exiguous presentation and leaves the listener wanting more, rather than being satisfied by the experience itself.

Mobbs has made efforts, as he says, to match music and instrument; he points out that the Haydn Minuet from HXVI 26 will surprise the listener – the Broadwood instrument has a means of sounding like an accordion or harmonica! But equally, one looks forward to hearing the Mozart finale from K331, and sure enough, Mobbs has chosen an instrument with drum attachments, to give that authentic ‘Turkish Rondo’ effect.

Much can be learned in miniature from this disc; two Beethoven bagatelles, early and late, on two Broadwoods, also early and late in Beethoven’s career, are followed by a Schubert Impromptu on a Fritz fortepiano (similar in sound to the instrument on which Howard Shelley recorded that composer – recently re-issued on Amon Ra) slightly younger in age and older in sound. We hear the contemporary sound-world for Field, Mendelssohn and Chopin.

Mobbs is no virtuoso; the faster pieces and passages are taken at very sedate tempi. But this is not the point of the disc, it showcases both some interesting instruments and the very idea of historical instrument research.

It is a great shame that there is not more documentation with this issue. Mobbs’ website gives one a few notes about each instrument; one imagines he himself could discourse at length and it is a shame he did not do so in extended liner notes.

Ying Chang

See the Mobbs early keyboard website

See review of Shelley plays Schubert