At noon on Tuesday last , June 14, in the Goethe Institut, Stefania Neonato played a program of Schumann and Beethoven on a lovely fortepiano built by Rodney Regier, based on Grafs and Bosendorfers of c. 1830, as one of the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe concerts. Two of Beethoven’s most famous sonatas – the so-called “Moonlight” and “Waldstein” – sandwiched Schumann’s fiendish Toccata Opus 7, with Schumann’s Exercice (a marginally simpler version of the Toccata written five years earlier) as an appetizer.
Neonato’s sound is clear and pleasant, and I was particularly taken by her interpretation of the Waldstein. The swiftness of her tempo in the first movement was such that the usually grim mood was transformed into one of giggling mischief – a most refreshing novelty. The last movement rose to splendid jubilation. My enjoyment of the Moonlight was unfortunately spoiled by the person who sat towards the back, coughing, unwrapping the most thoroughly wrapped candies I have ever encountered, scuffling in his bag, rustling his coat, squeaking his camera, and generally carrying on in a most irritating manner, in spite of the baleful glares of the rear half of the audience. The two versions of the Schumann Toccata were also played with charm and speed, though a faint hint something nervous, perhaps a flaw in the air of absolute conviction and confidence which a performer must generate (regardless of actual emotional state), prevented it from being superlative.
My one quarrel with the performance as a whole is that Neonato chose to speak at some length between each piece. What she said was indeed interesting but would have been far better corralled in program notes, where the audience could please itself on the question of whether to read about a piece before or after (or even during) the performance. As it was, the talking between pieces was so long that my mind at least was obliged to switch from concentrating on a musical performance to concentrating on a scholarly lecture, so that for most of the lecture I was restively wanting music, and for a good deal of the music I was thinking of the lecture.