REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » ROMANTIC PIANO FAVOURITES, Vol. 9
Romantic Piano Favourites Vol. 9
The present collection of piano
favourites ranges from Scarlatti to Bartók, from the 18th century to the 20th. Domenico
Scarlatti was the son of a famous composer and member of a family that had been widely
involved in music in southern Italy for some time. Born in 1685, the same year as J.S.
Bach and Handel, he embarked on a career as a composer and performer in Naples, but spent
the greater part of his life in Portugal and Spain, in the service of the Portuguese
princess who became Queen Maria Barbara of Spain. For his royal patron he wrote a very
large number of short sonatas or "exercises", some 555 in all, designed for the
By the time of Mozart the piano, or
fortepiano, as it was properly known, had developed beyond the stage with which Scarlatti
had been familiar in Spain. Mozart himself was a performer, depending in part on his
ability as a player during the last ten years of his life, spent in uneasy independence in
Vienna. Opinions vary about the date of composition of his twelve variations on the French
song "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman", better known in English-speaking countries as
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star" or "Baa, baa, black sheep". It was
possibly written during the composer's visit to Paris in 1778 or a few years later in
Robert Schumann, the son of a Saxon
bookseller, publisher and writer, set out to be a pianist, but eventually turned rather to
composition, after a somewhat dissipated student existence, followed by marriage to Clara
Wieck, the daughter of his former piano teacher, an implacable opponent of the match.
Schumann excelled in the composition of smaller pieces, short works, often bearing some
literary or pictorial significance. He wrote the 43 little pieces that make up his Opus 68 Album for the Young in 1848, a year of
political disturbance in Dresden, where he had settled with his distinguished pianist
wife, for his own four children, two of whom were of an age to make practical use of them.
First Loss and Small Study are chacteristic of a work that was intended to include music
by other composers, to provide, with the instructions for young musicians that Schumann
published in 1850, a complete course of musical training.
Felix Mendelssohn, grandson of a
distinguished Jewish thinker and son of a prosperous banker, was precocious as a child,
charming, intelligent and gifted in away rare among musicians. Over a period of a dozen
years he wrote a number of short piano pieces with the original title Songs Without Words, miniatures that won immediate
popularity. The Gondolier's Song, not the
only piece with that title, speaks for itself, as does the Andante espressivo sometimes
known as May Breezes, although Mendelssohn deprecated the use of such titles.
The Russian composer Tchaikovsky is
not regarded as primarily a piano composer. He played the instrument, of course, but it is
above all his command of orchestral colour that continues to enchant audiences. In common
with many of his contemporaries, however, he wrote music for the piano, much of it for the
use of amateurs, talented or otherwise. The E minor Humoresque was written in December
1871 in Nice and includes in its middle section a local melody the composer had heard in
the South of France.
The name of Grieg is inextricably
associated with that of his native Norway, and he was in the late nineteenth century the
most significant Norwegian composer, whose music has travelled well, often in the company
of Ibsen's appalling hero Peer Gynt. Grieg wrote for the piano, his own instrument, ten
albums of so-called Lyric Pieces, some of
which he arranged for orchestra. The gentle Berceuse was published in 1884 and the Cradle Song, which Grieg also orchestrated, in 1898.
Franz Schubert takes us back to
Vienna in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, a time when the piano was
undergoing technical development, to become the most popular domestic instrument of middle
class Biedermeier culture. He was a competent performer himself, if not a great virtuoso,
and followed the tradition of Mozart, Beethoven and many others as a string player.
Schubert died young, before he had really established himself beyond the circle of his own
friends, for whose delight his many songs were written. His E flat Impromptu, its title
the inspiration of his publisher rather than his own, is one of a group of four such
pieces, probably written in the summer of 1827.
Every important composer has his own
musical language, immediately recognisable to a listener. Fryderyk Chopin, son of a French
emigre, spent his boyhood in his native Poland and his maturity in Paris, where his
patriotism burned still more fiercely in association with other exiles. For the piano he
created an idiosyncratic style of composition and performance, delicate, nuanced, poetic
and highly characteristic. The two sets of twelve studies, Opus 10 and Opus 25, explore technical problems of performance in
a completely musical way, as in the familiar >E major
Etude, Opus 10 No.3.
Franz Liszt, son of a steward and
amateur cellist in the employment of Joseph Haydn's patrons, the Esterhazy family, won
himself immense popularity as one of the most remarkable pianists of his time, dazzling
audiences with startling feats of virtuosity. He was later to turn his attention, during
residence in Weimar, to the creation of the symphonic poem, a reinterpretation of
poetry, drama or painting in music. As a pianist he had already attempted something of the
kind in some of the piano pieces that he wrote during years spent as a travelling
virtuoso. The pieces included in Liszt's so-called Years
of Pilgrimage, their published title, come from the period of his life he spent
as a performer, exiled from Paris, where he had made his home, partly through the scandal
that attached to his liaison with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d' Agoult, his
companion on his travels. Petrarch's sonnets, set also as songs, form the basis of three
of the seven pieces of the Second Year of wandering. Sonnet 104 tells of the contradictory
feelings of an ardent lover Pace non trovo, e non ho da far Guerra, I
find no peace, yet cannot wage war.
The Polish-German pianist Moritz
Moszkowski is nowadays chiefly remembered for his Spanish Dances, in which he ensured for
himself a place as a musical purveyor of things Spanish. Isaac Albeniz by birth and
parentage inherited a closer knowledge of the country, although, oddly enough, he spent
some time setting to music libretti by a London banker on quintessentially English
subjects, including an uninspired trilogy on King Arthur. The well known Tango appeared in
a collection of Album Leaves published in London in 1890.
The nocturnal monastery bells of the
French organist Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely testify to his talent in the provision of
a form of music that once enjoyed considerable popularity. It is followed here by a group
of pieces of a very different kind, the work of the great Hungarian composer Béla
Bartók. For Children is a collection of 83 short pieces, some, as here, based on
Hungarian folk-songs, and others on folk-songs from Slovakia, where he spent the formative
years of adolescence. No.36 is a Drunkard's Song, No.37 a Swineherd's Song and No.40 a
final Swineherd's Dance.
The present collection ends with two
short pieces by Claude Debussy, a composer of the greatest importance in French music in
the early years of the 20th century and in the influence he has exercised over the
subsequent development of music internationally. The first of his two Arabesques,
published in 1891, has all the delicacy of Chopin, translated into an idiom that is
entirely Debussy's. The Danse too comes from a time when great composers could still
provide music of wide popular appeal, without any sacrifice of taste.
The Hungarian pianist Balázs
Sozkolay was born in Budapest 1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who
is a composer and professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano
when he was five and in 1970 entered the preparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy,
where he completed his studies with Pál Kadosa and Zoltan Kocsis in 1983 .He later spent
two years at the Academy of Music in Munich, with a West German government scholarship.
Balázs Szokolay made an early
international appearance with Peter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in 1979, and in 1983
substituted for Nikita Magaloff in Belgrade in a performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 of
Brahms. He is now a soloist with the Hungarian State Orchestra and has given concerts in a
number of countries abroad, including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, the
Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987, he made his recital debut
at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has won a number of important prizes at home and
abroad, including, most recently, in the 1987 Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians Competition.
Last Albums Viewed
ROMANTIC PIANO FAVOURITES, Vol. 9