If I am invited to watch a godchild perform in a school play or choir, I do not apply the same critical standards that I would if I had paid serious money for a West End seat. I smile indulgently, look for the spirit and enthusiasm behind the performance and even genuinely admire certain aspects of the raw talent on display. Standing about afterwards, a glass of warm Chardonnay in hand, I don't launch into a critical diatribe in which I detail the artistic, technical and aesthetic failings in the evening's offering.
This is rather laboriously to convey, dear reader, how I feel about recordings of Beethoven sonatas on the forte piano. This instrument, nicely reconditioned, hails from 1828, two years after LVB's demise, and sometimes sounds it. True, it's not clattery, nor is it out of tune, but by 'eck, it's clearly old; it revived fond memories of my banging about as an eight year old on the sturdy beast in the upstairs parlour above the corner shop belonging to my maiden aunts. Or, to borrow another comparison, have you ever heard an elderly singer attempt to reprise lost glories? More Adelina Patti than Florence Foster Jenkins, I grant you, but still...
OK; enough whimsy. If you want to hear a clearly splendid musician make the best case for these works on the fortepiano, this is it. I don't; five minutes into Lubimov chuntering and puttering his way through the Arietta of Op.111, I find myself screaming for Serkin, Gilels and even Paul Lewis on a modern instrument. Lubimov phrases most sensitively and is dynamically nuanced; he understands the music and has a vision of it which is as effectively and nostalgically conveyed as his old Joanna permits.
Of course, my reaction flies in the face of current received critical wisdom, whereby every paid critic goes into hyperdrive to pay homage at the HIP shrine and would rather be arrested for indecent exposure in a public place than seem out of step with the new orthodoxy. But that's how I hear it.