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Moscheles: Piano Concertos 1,6,7; HOWARD SHELLEY, piano / conductor, TASMANIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA torrent

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Moscheles, Ignaz (Isaac)
(b Prague, 23 May 1794; d Leipzig, 10 March 1870). Bohemian pianist and composer. He was of Jewish descent: the extra Hebrew forename Isaac, occasionally added in modern publications, was of purely religious significance and was never used by him professionally. His date of birth is given incorrectly as 30 May in many earlier works of reference. His piano lessons began early, and from 1804 to 1808 he was taught by B.D. Weber, director of the Prague Conservatory, who insisted on an exclusive study of Bach, Mozart and Clementi. But already Moscheles had discovered the ‘Pathétique’ Sonata, and was keen to explore every new Beethoven piano work. In 1808 he moved to Vienna, where he could come closer personally and musically to Beethoven, while studying counterpoint with Albrechtsberger and composition with Salieri. By 1814, when the publisher Artaria commissioned him to prepare a piano reduction of Beethoven’s Fidelio, he was one of Vienna’s most popular pianists, and his career as a virtuoso had begun. The brilliant display piece La marche d’Alexandre op.32 (1815) met with tremendous success at his recitals and became a favourite with other aspiring pianists (later including Schumann). Between 1815 and 1825 his travels as a recitalist took him throughout Germany, often to Paris and London, and also back to Prague. He was first heard in London at a Philharmonic concert on 11 June 1821, and was hailed as an equal and friend by Clementi and J.B. Cramer. It was in 1824 that Moscheles met the 15-year-old Mendelssohn in Berlin and gave him some finishing lessons on the piano.

In March 1825 Moscheles married Charlotte Embden (1805–89) in Hamburg, and they settled in London where he taught the piano both privately and at the RAM, building up a circle of talented pupils, including Litolff and Thalberg. He also became a conductor to the Philharmonic Society (co-director from 1832 to 1841); he conducted the first London performance of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis in 1832 and very successful performances of the Ninth Symphony in 1837 and 1838. His edition and translation of Schindler was published as The Life of Beethoven (London, 1841); it includes an extensive autobiographical preface. Throughout the 1830s he gave concert tours in Britain and on the continent, and continued to produce a steady output of both fashionable and more serious compositions. At the same time he established a series of ‘classical chamber concerts’ or ‘historical soirées’, in which he contributed to the newly awakened interest in earlier music by playing Scarlatti and Bach on the harpsichord. The Moscheles family was often host to Mendelssohn in London: the two composers played Mendelssohn’s Two-Piano Concerto in E in 1829, and the Mozart Two Piano Concerto in 1832, and Moscheles went to Leipzig to appear with Mendelssohn in his first Gewandhaus concerts in 1835. He also met Chopin and with him played his own Grande sonate op.47 to the French royal family in Paris in 1839.

Towards 1840 Moscheles became increasingly occupied with teaching. He finally left London in 1846 to become principal professor of piano at the Leipzig Conservatory, recently founded by Mendelssohn, remaining there for the rest of his life. Mendelssohn’s death in 1847 was a profound blow, and he resolved to maintain the high standard of teaching for which his former pupil would have wished. He taught his unique piano method to many pupils, including Grieg, Fibich and Sullivan; he treated them with an almost paternal interest, often inviting them to continue instruction at his home, and finding them suitable professional openings.

Moscheles brought a crisp and incisive touch to his own piano playing, and he phrased with clarity and precision. He admired the pianistic innovations of Chopin and Liszt, but was not convinced of their aesthetic validity: though he commissioned Chopin’s Trois nouvelles études for his piano method, he disliked what he saw as a showy and effeminate side to Chopin’s virtuosity. His own piano improvisations were marked by brilliance and variety; some of their atmosphere is probably captured in small pieces like the Präludien op.73 or the grander sets of variations on well-known melodies. Moscheles had a great respect for earlier music (he was active both as an editor and as an interpreter of Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Clementi, as well as of Weber). The programme of his first ‘historical soirée’ (February 1837) included two Beethoven sonatas (op.31 no.2 and op.81a), a Weber sonata, three preludes and fugues from the ‘48’ and some Scarlatti and Handel pieces played on a 1771 harpsichord, some of his own newest studies, and vocal items by Purcell, Mozart and Mendelssohn. Hanslick assessed Moscheles as one of the last great representatives of the Classical school and also the beginner of a new epoch.

The majority of Moscheles’s compositional output is piano music; some, including the sonatas, is of lasting consequence, while a number of the fantasias, rondos and variations contain more ephemeral music intended for salons or for the newly expanding amateur market. Schumann considered Moscheles one of the best sonata composers of his generation: certainly the one-movement Sonate mélancolique op.49 and the two duet sonatas are imaginatively written, the former with noble restraint. His later Hommage à Händel op.92 for two pianos is a tasteful parody, showing his interest in Baroque music. His piano method is best represented in his sets of studies, which are still used: Schumann saw these as bridging the gap between the age of Clementi and that of Chopin and being indebted to Bach’s Clavier-Übung.

Many of Moscheles’s sonatas were written in the Beethovenian environment of Vienna; with the development of his travelling career, he turned more to display pieces and piano concertos, the latter forming the bulk of his small orchestral output. Of these, no.3 in G minor op.60 is still known today: it is masculine in spirit, taking its inspiration from Beethoven, and has delicate touches of orchestration (though Moscheles complained that he found writing for the orchestra difficult). The second movement’s string tremolos and quasi-recitative texture anticipate the slow movement of Chopin’s F minor Concerto. Later in life he turned to songwriting, in addition to producing the better-known sets of studies (opp.70 and 95). His output also includes chamber works such as the Sextet op.35 and the Septet op.88, both of which include piano and are, in parts, texturally akin to miniature piano concertos.

In all his more serious works Moscheles was capable of skilfully wrought musical structures, in which a Classical balance of thematic ideas is tempered with an early Romantic dynamism. Pathos in general, and chromaticism in particular, are not overplayed, and his music is never sentimental. That this restraint and discernment was as characteristic of the man as of his music can be seen from his wife’s biography of him, a fascinating if not always entirely reliable account of his times, which records his dealings with and feelings about many great musicians of the early 19th century.

for an almost complete list see C. Moscheles (1872)
many works were published in Leipzig or Vienna, undated, within a few years of composition, but a few appeared first in Berlin or Paris
Symphony, C, op.81, 1828–9
Jeanne d'Arc, ov., after F. von Schiller, op.91, 1834–5
Pf concs.: no.1, F, op.45, 1819; no.2, E, op.56, 1823; no.3, g, op.60, 1820; no.4, E, op.64, 1823; no.5, C, op.87, 1826; no.6 ‘Fantastique’, B, op.90, 1833; no.7 ‘Pathétique’, c, op.93, 1835–6; no.8 ‘Pastorale’, D, op.96, 1838
Other works with solo inst: La marche d’Alexandre, pf, op.32, 1815; Französisches Rondo, pf, vn, op.48, 1819; Fantaisie … et variations sur Au clair de la lune, pf, op.50, 1821; Souvenirs d’Irlande, pf, op.69, 1826; Anklänge aus Schottland, pf, op.75, 1826; Fantaisie sur des airs des bardes écossais, pf, op.80, 1828; Souvenirs de Danemarc, pf, op.83, 1830; Duo concertant, variations on march from Weber’s Preciosa, 2 pf, op.87b, 1833 [collab. Mendelssohn]; Concertante, F, fl, ob, ed. D. Forster (Zürich, c1983)

for 2 hands unless otherwise stated
Sonatas and sonatinas: Sonatine, G, op.4, before 1815; Sonate, D, op.22, before 1815; Sonate caractéristique, B, op.27, 1814; Grosse Sonate, E, op.41, 1816; Grande sonate, E, 4 hands, op.47, 1819; Sonate mélancolique, f#, op.49, 1814–19; Grande sonate symphonique no.2, b, 4 hands, op.112, 1845
Pedagogical works: [24] Studien, op.70, 1825–6; 50 Präludien, op.73, 1827; [12] Charakteristische Studien, op.95, 1836–7; Méthode des méthodes [collab. Fétis], 2 studies pubd as op.98 (Paris, ?1840/R; Eng. trans., 1841); [59] Tägliche Studien über die harmonisierten Skalen, 4 hands, op.107, 1842–3; 2 other sets of studies
Other works: Variations sur un thème de Händel, op.29, 1814; Allegri di bravura, op.51, 1821; Hommage à Händel, 2 pf, op.92, 1822–35; Hommage à Weber, 4 hands, op.102, 1841; c100 other works, incl. 9 for pf duet

other works
Chbr: Sextet, E, vn, fl, 2 hn, vc, pf, op.35, 1815; Sonata, A, fl, pf, op.44, 1819; Sonata, G, fl/vn, pf, op.79, 1828; Pf Trio, c, op.84, 1830; Septet, D, vn, va, cl/vn, hn/va, vc, db, pf, op.88, 1832–3; Sonata, E, vc, pf, op.121, 1850–51; Str Qt, d, ed. (Brighton, 1994); 13 other works
Songs: 3 erotische Lieder (E. Ludwig), op.16, ? before 1815; 6 Lieder (L. Uhland, others), op.97, ?c1840; Freie Kunst (Uhland), B/A, op.116, ?c1845; 6 Lieder (F. Rückert, E. Geibel, Uhland, L. Hölty, F. von Schlechta), op.117, ?c1845; 6 Gesänge, op.119, ?c1845; Frühlingslied, S/T, op.125, ?c1850; 6 Lieder, op.131, ? after 1850; 4 Duette, S, A, op.132, ? after 1850
Numerous edns and arrs., incl. works by Beethoven (Choral Fantasia, Christus am Oelberg, Egmont Ov., Fidelio, syms., pf concs., pf trios, vn sonatas, vc sonatas, pf sonatas and variations), Clementi (pf sonatas), Handel (L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, kbd suites), Haydn (pf sonatas), Weber (pf works)

I. Moscheles, ed.: The Life of Beethoven (London, 1841) [Eng. trans. of A. Schindler: Biographie von Ludwig van Beethoven, Münster, 1840, with autobiographical preface and suppl., pp.315–17]
Thematisches Verzeichniss im Druck erschienener Compositionen von Ignaz Moscheles (Leipzig, 1862/R)
E. Hanslick: Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien (Vienna, 1869–70/R)
C. Moscheles, ed.: Aus Moscheles’ Leben: nach Briefen und Tagebüchern (Leipzig, 1872–3; Eng. trans., 1873) [based on Moscheles’s diaries; incl. list of works]
F. Moscheles, ed.: Briefe von Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy an Ignaz und Charlotte Moscheles (Leipzig, 1888/R; Eng. trans., 1888/R)
F. Moscheles: Fragments of an Autobiography (London and New York, 1899)
M. Kreisig, ed.: Robert Schumann: Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker (Leipzig, 5/1914/R)
I. Heussner: Ignaz Moscheles in seinen Klavier-Sonaten, Kammermusikwerken, und -Konzerten (diss., U. of Marburg, 1963)
C.D. Gresham: Ignaz Moscheles: an Illustrious Musician in the Nineteenth Century (diss., U. of Rochester, NY, 1980)
A. Conklin: The Characteristic Etudes, op.95, of Ignaz Moscheles (diss., U. of Notre Dame, IN, 1981)
Z. Böhmová-Zahradní?ková: ‘Ignaz Moscheles’, Slavní ?eští klavíristé a klavírní pedagogové z 18. a 19. století (Prague, 1986), 100–09
E. Smidak: Isaak-Ignaz Moscheles: das Leben des Komponisten und seine Begegnungen mit Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn (Vienna, 1988; Eng. trans., 1989)
P.A. Silver: Ignaz Moscheles: a Reappraisal of his Life and Musical Influence (DMA diss., U. of Washington, 1992)
S.D. Lindeman: Structural Novelty and Tradition in the Early Romantic Piano Concerto (Stuyvesant, NY, 1999)

Jerome Roche/Henry Roche

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