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GP629-30 - TÜRK, D.G.: Easy Keyboard Sonatas, Collections 1 and 2 (1783) (Tsalka)
DANIEL GOTTLOB TÜRK (1750–1813)
A recording and critical edition of the 48 keyboard sonatas of the North German composer, performer, theorist, and pedagogue, Daniel Gottlob Türk has long been overdue. Today Türk remains best known for his extensive and extremely detailed musical treatise, Klavierschule (1789), one of the most important sources for keyboard performance practice of the late eighteenth century. He is also well known among piano teachers as the composer of a collection of useful keyboard miniatures, the Kleine Handstücke für angehende Klavierspieler, which systematically prepare beginning students for the many challenges of more advanced repertoire.
Türk’s musical training, which he received as a teenager in Dresden from Gottfried August Homilius, a former student of Johann Sebastian Bach, thoroughly prepared him for the varied musical rôles rôles which he had to adopt throughout his professional life. When he became a student at the University of Leipzig in the early 1770s, the keyboard virtuoso, Johann Wilhelm Hässler, introduced him to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen (1753) and also to his keyboard sonatas. Shortly afterwards, Türk, under the supervision of his mentor and friend Johann Adam Hiller, began to compose his first two collections of sonatas TThese twelve works, recorded also by Michael Tsalka for Grand Piano (GP 627–28), were initially published by Breitkopf in Leipzig and Halle in 1776 and 1777. Because of their popularity the two collections quickly went out of print. Six more volumes of sonatas were to be released by Breitkopf in the 1780s and early 1790s.
Türk’s keyboard collections grow directly from his lucid understanding of the contrasting, expressive potential of the sonata genre as developed by North German composers during the 1750s and 1760s. For Türk, the keyboard sonata was the perfect aesthetic medium to express the boldest and most experimental of ideas. In Klavierschule, the composer expressed this idea in the following terms:
Daniel Gottlob Türk’s two collections of Leichte Klaviersonaten (first published in 1783) present technically and musically simpler material when compared to his three collections for professional players (first published in 1776, 1777, and 1789). Despite this, the modern player and musicologist should not underestimate their musical interest and beauty. Reading through Türk’s preface to the first leichte collection and the many comments made about these sonatas in Klavierschule (1789), it becomes clear that the composer created them with the intent of systematically introducing his keyboard students to the rhetorical and expressive resources of the era:
During his initial years in Halle, the young composer became an experienced keyboard instructor, identifying the most common difficulties faced by the beginner. Türk came to the realization that his students benefited much from the meticulous discussion of those details that more advanced players found obvious: “It is…bad to allow the beginner to play something of which he still has no clear idea. Every little detail must be explained to him beforehand or in some cases even during playing.”3 The scores of the Leichte Klaviersonaten are heavily marked when compared to those of Türk’s two initial collections of sonatas, making note of phrase accentuation and articulation, ornaments, dynamic level, tempo variation, etc.
Movements with elaborate titles such as Allegro di molto con zelo e minaccioso (CD 2, Track 15), Andante innocentemente (CD 1, Track 11), Allegretto con tenerezza (CD 1, Track 7), which relate a section’s affective character to its temporal nature, are quite common. Such elaborate indications also reflect the composer’s suspicious attitude towards the mechanical innovations of the metronome, which he feared ruined the beat’s intrinsic inner flexibility and, therefore, its expressive core.4 Flexibility of the beat is well illustrated in the sudden dramatic shifts in the opening measures of the third movement of Sonata V in E minor, HedT.99.3.5 (CD 1, Track 15).
For the leichte sonatas, Türk created his first two keyboard sinfonias. In Klavierschule, the composer explained the pedagogical value and musical uniqueness of this type of composition:
Türk realized cunningly that the “democratic” symphonic style would be more easily comprehensible to unsophisticated ears than the sonata style. From a pedagogical perspective, the keyboard sinfonia represented a rare opportunity to advance the technical skills of the pupil, while providing musical understanding and enjoyment.
Critical reception of the two volumes of Leichte Klaviersonaten was quite favorable. Carl Friedrich Cramer commented on the sonatas’ technical ease and appropriateness, as well as their overall beauty.6 His comments were echoed by Heinrich Christoph Koch in the third volume of his Introductory Essay on Composition almost ten years later:
Not only amateurs but also most artists are concerned more about expressive pieces than about difficult works…Proof is given by the sonatas of Türk, which are generally loved because along with the suitable presentation of pleasant feelings they do not frighten off the amateur by too many difficulties. Moreover, they are written in a style which is very affecting for any feeling not yet overindulged—all qualities which can rightly be required of compositions of this kind…7
Early keyboard performers, piano teachers and students, and musicologists will discover untapped riches in these expressive and historically relevant pedagogical works.
¹ Daniel Gottlob Türk, School of Clavier Playing, trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, c.1982), 383–4.
PIANOS IN THE MARLOWE A. SIGAL COLLECTION
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