Musical journey from the harpsichord to the piano

Prominent Greek pianist Elena Mouzala will take the audience at the Athens Concert Hall on a fascinating journey back to the time when the harpsichord and the clavichord were gradually developing into the piano. Tonight, she will interpret compositions from the mid-17th to the mid-19th centuries which show how composers at that time altered their style to make the most of the new instrument. What do you want the public to understand from your interpretations of compositions that range from Couperin to Beethoven? I mostly want to demonstrate the sounds of the era and how they varied according to the composer, something that I have always found fascinating. Each composer developed his own sound, depending on the era, his acoustic experiences and the musical instrument he had at his disposal. The dynamics and sounds are entirely different, from the harpsichord to the completed version of the piano. In this recital, I want to show the difference in dynamics between Couperin and Rameau, in Scarlatti and Soler and from Haydn, when the piano starts to have a forte, to Mozart and Beethoven, when it acquires two or even three fortes, as well as the incredible use of pedals. Are you going to play all the compositions on the piano? Yes and that’s where the difficulty lies: Pianists today try to approach the sound of that era’s instruments with the modern piano. Would it be too difficult to also have a harpsichord? The technique is different, you can’t just play it without having studied it. Pianists who have decided to turn to the harpsichord have encountered many difficulties. The piano demands great physical strength – if you see my muscles, for instance, you would think that I have been doing bodybuilding for 20 years, though it’s only from the piano – while the harpsichord is an instrument you barely need to touch. It requires an entirely different attitude. So we try to approach with our instrument today the sound of every era. You will cover material from about one-and-a-half to two centuries? We will start with Couperin in 1668 and will go as far as Beethoven in 1827. The instrument developed during that period. The first harpsichord was made in 1655. It developed into the piano forte a century later, 1765-1770. The completed version of the piano, with all its octaves, not from the point of view of wood and pedals, was complete in 1780-89. In my recital, I have included two harpsichord compositions by Rameau and Couperin, two sonatas by Scarlatti and another two by the later and more romantic (being Spanish) Antonio Soler, Haydn’s final and hardest sonata, a sonata by Mozart that has many variations and finally Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, one of his last. How do you get on with the students in the Department of Musical Studies at the Ionian University, where you are lecturing as of this year? What is happening in Corfu right now is very important. This is the first and only university in this country that offers not just a degree in musicology, but also professional musical training. It provides higher degrees and specialization on particular musical instruments. I have been teaching for years and I am familiar with the standards of our conservatories. This department’s standards are high; these studies are aimed at students who cannot afford to go abroad to undertake similar studies. This is a music academy with excellent teachers, such Kavakos, Kotsiolis, Logiadis, Mourikis, Xanthoudakis, Kouroupos, Savvopoulos and others. The significance of this department is not yet well known, but it gradually will be and students who are interested will come. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.