Monica Jakuc (Smith College), fortepiano (Paul McNulty 5-1/2 octave fortepiano after Walter & Son): Fantasies for Fortepiano: Mozart: Fantasy in C Minor, K.475, & Sonata in C Minor, K.457; C.P.E. Bach: Fantasia in C, W.61/6; Haydn: Fantasia (Capriccio) in C, H.XVII:4; & Beethoven: Sonata No. 13 (Sonata quasi una Fantasia), in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27/2. $12.97 plus shipping, available from CD Baby:

This is a fine collection of fantasies performed on a rich-sounding fortepiano by the doyenne of Smith College’s keyboard department, Monica Jakuc. The program includes some of the literature’s most celebrated scores, and it’s a fact that hearing them so well played on a marvelous fortepiano by one of our best makers brings new and exciting dimensions to the works themselves. Monica Jakuc’s distinguished career has encompassed the best of the rewarding worlds of performance and pedagogy, and it’s clear that she’s spent many hours with the works given here, polishing and refining them to perfection.

The instrument is remarkable in that it projects far more vivid and, at times, abrupt dynamic contrasts than many other early keyboards we’ve heard, although granted part of this may stem from the venue and the recording engineer. In any event, while the sound is unmistakably that of an older keyboard instrument, it comes across with strength and vibrancy that is most pleasing. Part of the key to this may well be the artist’s long-term predilection for contemporary music, although she’s certainly paid her dues in the “historically-informed performances” crowd, too. In any event, the sound and Jakuc’s interpretations shed new light on the music.

We’ve had this CD for several months, and we’ve played it repeatedly, so pleased we’ve been with it as a package. The program begins with Mozart’s C Minor Fantasy, followed directly by the K.457 Sonata, in the same key. These make an admirable pair, similar in mood, and they lead handsomely into C.P.E. Bach’s brighter Fantasia in C Major, which in turn pairs admirably with Haydn’s roughly contemporaneous Capriccio, in the same key. The CD ends with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, and a lovely performance it is, thoughtful and elegant without ever slipping into overt pathos. At a little over 60 minutes, the recording is generous enough. The sound is superb, the illustrated program notes shed additional light on the music, the artist, the instrument, and the recording process, and I am sorry it took me so long to get this written up, because it’s such a delightful CD I can’t imagine any serious piano fancier wanting to be without a copy.