Romantic Piano Favourites, Vol. 5 (Balazs Szokolay/ Dora Antal) (Naxos: 8.550168)
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Romantic Piano Favourites, Volume 5
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757): Sonatain E Major, K. 162
Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805) Minuet inA Major (tr. Balazs Szokolay)
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) Marchemilitaire in D Major, D. 733/1 (arr. Balazs Szokolay)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)Bagatelle in A Minor, Opus 59 (Fuer Elise)
Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856) Album fuerdie Jugend, Opus 68; No.28 Erinnerung; No.12 Knecht Ruprecht
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809 - 1847)Venetian Boat Song, Opus 30 No.6 (from Songs without Words Book II)
Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907) Wedding-day atTroldhaugen, Opus 65 No.6 (from Lyric Pieces) Maurice Ravel (1875 -1937) Pavanepour une infante defunte
Johann & Josef Strauss (1825 - 1899)& 1827-1870) Pizzicato Polka (tr. Balazs Szokolay)
Francois-Joseph Gossec (1734 - 1829)Gavotte 'Rosine' in D Major (tr. Theodore de Lajarte)
Franz Lehar (1870 - 1948) Vilja from TheMerry Widow (tr. Balazs Szololay)
Claude Debussy (1862- 1918) Arabesque in GMajor
Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) Staendchen,Opus 17 No.2 (tr. Walter Gieseking)
Fryderyk Chopin (1871 - 1849) Nocturne in EFiat Major, Opus 9 No.2
Leon Jessel (1871 - 1942) Parade of theTin Soldiers, Opus 123
Pyotr Il'ylch Tchalkovsky (1840 - 1893)Romance in F Minor, Opus 5
Gustar Lange (1830 - 1889) Der klelnePostillon (The Little Postillion)
The fifth volume of Romantic Piano Piecescovers a relatively wide range of well known music, some of it popular ratherthan Romantic in any strict sense. The age of the piano began in the nineteenthcentury, although a form of pianoforte had been developed much earlier.
Technical changes, however, and changes in society, made the piano thefavourite instrument of a growing middle class. There was an enormous demandfor piano teachers and for piano music suitable for domestic performance by theambitious. Until recently, indeed, learning music, in England at least, hasbeen synonymous with learning the piano.
The present collection opens with acharming, delicate and characteristic sonata by the Italian composer DomenicoScarlatti, son of the distinguished Alessandro, composer of Neapolitan opera,and himself, for much of his career, in the service of the Portuguese MariaBarbara, Queen of Spain, for whom he wrote some 550 Esercizi, Exercises laterknown as sonatas, short pieces of remarkable invention.
Boccherini's Minuet comes from aset of ten Minuets published in 1788 by a composer who, in his time, rivalledHaydn in popularity. Italian by birth, Boccherini, like Domenico Scarlatti, spentmuch of his career in the service of the Spanish royal family. He came from afamily that won distinction in ballet as well as in music and was himself acello virtuoso, an accomplishment that led to a brief period of employment bythe cello-playing King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II.
Franz Schubert's three Marchesmilitaires, written for piano duet, were probably composed during thesummer of 1818 for the composer's pupils, the daughters of Count Johann KarlEsterhazy, a member of the noble family that Haydn had served for half acentury. The son of a Vienna schoolmaster, Schubert helped his father for atime, but in the course of his short life never held any musical appointment,employing his talent rather on music for a loyal circle of friends than forgrander musical occasions. The Count spent the summer at his estate at Zseliz,in Hungary, and Schubert found his two pupils, Marie and Karoline, aged 15 and12 respectively, congenial.
It seems to have been the French composerFran?ºois Couperin who, early in the eighteenth century, first made use of thetitle Bagatelle. It was to prove a useful label for later composers,writing genuine trifles or modestly deprecating their own work. Beethovencomposed and published three sets of Bagatelles. Fuer Elise, all toowell known from infant attempts to master its opening bars, was not publisheduntil fifty years after the composer's death. It seems to have been written in1810, and dedicated to Therese Malfatti, to whom Beethoven proposed in the sameyear, with no success.
Robert Schuman, whose career as a pianisthad been cut short by a physical weakness in the fingers, as Beethoven's hadbeen by his deafness, excelled in the composition of short pieces, often ofliterary inspiration. He wrote the 43 1ittle sketches that make up his Albumfuer die Jugend in 1848, when he and his wife, the pianist Clara Wieck wereliving in Dresden. Married in 1840, after a law suit against Friedrich Wieckwas decided in Schumann's favour, the couple had by 1848 four children, two ofthem old enough to make use of the present pieces, the first originally bearingthe title Erinnerung an Mendelssohn, a composer who had died a yearbefore, and the second the self-explanatory Sir Rupert.
Mendelssohn himself had encouragedSchumann by arranging performances of his work in Leipzig with the GewandhausOrchestra, which he directed. A man of diverse talents, sociable and broadlyeducated, he retained an element of classicism in his work, an ability to useagain old forms, coupled with an economy of means, while nevertheless providingmusic of contemporary Romantic appeal. The Venetian Boat Song includedhere, not the only one he wrote, appeared in the second volume of his genrepieces, Songs without Words, graceful vignettes calculated to bring a blush ofdelight to the cheeks of any young person.
Wedding-day at Troldhaugen appears among one of the sets of Lyric Pieces that Grieg was towrite throughout his life, the first group appearing in 1867, and the group ofwhich the present piece forms a part thirty years later. It is typical in itsway of the colourful and illustrative writing of the Norwegian composer, theleading nationalist composer of his time and country.
The French composer, Maurice Ravel,claimed to have chosen the title of his Pavane pour une infante defunte
on grounds of euphony rather than for any other reason. Written for the pianoin 1899, the piece won immediate popularity in its original form, extended bythe later orchestral version made by the composer. 'Whether the nostalgicmusic, based on an old dance form, mourns a Spanish princess or not, it hasabout it a characteristic fin de siecle air of yearning for an unattainable andideal past, a quality Ravel shared with his teacher Gabriel Faure.
The world of Johann and Joseph Strausswas a very different one. The former followed his father into the business ofproviding light music for the Viennese public, in spite of his father's attemptto provide all his sons with a more satisfactory career. The younger Johanninvolved his younger brothers Joseph and Eduard with the activities of theStrauss orchestra, which became identified with the very spirit of the city.
The Pizzicato Polka was a collaboration between two of the brothers.
Fran?ºois-Joseph Gossec enjoyed asuccessful career in France before the Revolution, turning his attentions in1790 to the Corps de Musique de la Garde Nationale and supplying the newrepublic with music for public occasions and assuming a leading position in theConservatoire in 1795, a place that he retained until the dissolution of theinstitution on the Bourbon restoration. He was not reinstated in theestablishment that took its place. The Gavotte 'Rosine', a popularlittle piece, is taken from