For his new album Four Pianos, the pianist Alexander Melnikov plays four different historic pianos for each of the four works he plays – Schubert’s Wanderer-Fantasie, Chopin’s Douze Études, Liszt’s Grande Fantaisie, and Stravinsky’s Trois Mouvements de Pétrouchka.
Alexander Melnikov. Photo © Julien Mignot
What was the inspiration for the project? Was it primarily the instruments, or was it the works?
I have long been fascinated by historical pianos. While exploring the possibilities of some of them, it seemed natural to look at several cornerstone pieces of the repertoire. At the time of their creation, these works acquired the reputation of being virtually unplayable because of the difficulty of their pianistic demands. Later, having got rid of this reputation, they became the staples of the virtuoso literature, inevitably losing their aura of novelty in the process. This recording has no ambition of being ‘historically correct’ in any way. The compelling idea of putting this music into the right context, at least instrumentally, can only be realised to a limited extent, not least because we shall never know how these pianos were actually meant to sound when they were new. But decisions as to what to play on are infinitely...