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8.223557 - MOSONYI: Hungarian Children's World / Piano Studies
Mihály Mosonyi (1815-1870)
Piano Works Vol. 1
Magyar gyermekvilág / Ungarische Kinderwelt / Hungarian Children's World, 12 Genres for Piano
Tanulmányok zongorára, a magyar zene elödásának képzésére / Übungen für das Pianoforte zur Bildung des Vortrages für ungarische Musik / Studies for Piano, for Development in the Performance of Hungarian Music
Mihály Mosonyi, known for many years under his original name, Michael Brand, was born in Boldogasszonyfalva, Hungary (now Frauenkirchen, Austria), on 2nd September 1815 and died on 31st October 1870 in Pest. He was the third most important Hungarian composer of the nineteenth century. He did not enjoy an international reputation, like Liszt, or a European reputation, like Erkel, nevertheless he was famous enough in his own country. He studied at the Teachers' Training College in Pozsony (the modern Bratislava, capital of Slovakia) and for a time had private lessons from the pianist, composer and conductor Károly Turányi, while making diligent use of the four volumes of Anton Reicha's work on the art of composition, as well as of Hummel's valuable instruction-book for the piano. On the recommendation of Turányi he became music-master to Count Péter Pejacsevich and accompanied the Count to the latter's castle in the village of Rétfalu, near the town of Eszék (the modern Croatian Osijek).
From 1835 to 1842 Brand lived at Rétfalu, analysing carefully many important examples of Viennese classicism, mainly the work of Beethoven, as well as of the best early German romantic compositions. The results of these researches were his own compositions from that period. In 1842 he left for the Hungarian capital, where he remained until the end of his life, except for short periods spent in the country and abroad. In these new circumstances it was very important for him to be personally acquainted with as many musicians in the city as possible, and to find enough students. For a long time his principal income came from teaching the piano, although he continued to apply himself diligently to composition.
Essentially Brand's life and activities may be divided into two periods. The first of these lasted unti11858. Until then he retained the name of Michael Brand and composed German romantic music. In 1859 he changed his name to Mihály Mosonyi, after the county of Moson, where he was born, and altered his style, to write Hungarian romantic music. During the first period the best work he wrote was the Piano Concerto in E minor, completed in 1844, but not performed until 1950. His other compositions from this period were, in 1857, an opera with a German libretto, which remained unperformed, four Masses, between 1840 and 1842, the first performed in 1844, seven sacred choral works, between 1843 and 1856, with an Offertory and Gradual conducted by Liszt in the latter year. Between 1844 and 1857 he wrote four secular choral works, in 1853-54 thirteen songs, with one symphony in 1842-44 and a second in 1856, the first conducted by Schindelmeisser in 1844, the second by Ferenc Erkel in 1856. Other compositions include an Overture, completed in 1842 and conducted by Schindelmeisser in 1843, a string sextet, composed in 1844, six string quartets between 1842 and 1845, a Grand Nocturne in 1845 for piano, violin and cello, in 1841 a Ballade for violin and piano, and between 1855and 1857 six works for solo piano, with piano transcriptions and orchestrations of works by foreign composers.
In the second period of his creative life, after his change of name and style, Mosonyi wrote two operas with Hungarian Libretti, the first, in 1861, Szép Ilonka (Pretty Helen), conducted in the year of its completion by Ferenc Erkel, and the following year Álmos, first performed only in 1934. Other works from this period include a Mass in 1866, several choral works, three cantatas between 1859 and 1870, twelve songs in the decade from 1860, four orchestral compositions, of which the last, Festival Music, was first conducted by Erkel in 1861 and again by Liszt in 1865. 1861 also brought the Románc for violin and piano, a piano transcription of Festival Music, a piano duet Az égö szerelem hármas szine (Three Colours of Burning Love), thirty-two works for solo piano and many transcriptions and orchestrations, among them a piano-duet version of Liszt's Missa solennis in 1860 and four years later a similar transcription of the nine symphonies of Beethoven.
Mosonyi wrote his Hungarian Children's World in 1859 under
the influence of Schumann's Kinderszenen, an influence that was rather one of
spirit than of style. Composed in his own Hungarian musical language, these
short pieces have a connection with the two Hungarian operas as well as with
his orchestral works. To each movement the composer gave a character title,
indicating the content, thus providing a set of programme pieces. These were
originally issued in three albums, Nos. 1-5, 6-9, and 10-12, apparently
diminishing in size, but in fact approximately the same in length. The pieces
increase in length as the series continues. It seems that Mosonyi had some
pedagogical principle at the back of his mind, since the pieces increase also
in complexity and difficulty. The second piece of the third album, No. 11, is a
self-portrait of the composer, The Story Man, and the whole work is dedicated
to the young people of Hungary.
The five pieces of the first album are Children's Feast Scene, March of the Little Soldier, The Little Cowherd, Orphan Girl and The Little Gypsy. The second contains May-bug Hunt, Lullaby, The Little Piper and Children's Song, and the third Lament on the Death of a Little Playfellow, The Story Man and Farewell Festival. The titles reveal the dramatic logic of the series, reflecting the thinking of an opera-composer. The first act introduces the characters in the story, to which the little gypsy adds a finale. The second act starts with an ensemble, leading into softer music again, before ending in an ensemble finale. The third act is a formal inversion of the first, opening in sadness, followed by the story-telling and a cheerful finale.
Most of these pieces are in ternary form, each expressing the character indicated in the title. The Little Cowherd, for example, is a lively and energetic rondo, conjuring up the picture of a boy on horseback chasing about the fields. Many of the pieces include typical elements of Hungarian romanticism. The Orphan Girl ends in the cadence of a Hungarian recruiting-dance, the verbunkos. This is followed by The Little Gypsy, playing his violin rhapsodically in an ornamented slow-fast verbunkos. The second act brings the activity of hunting the May-bug, followed by a gentle Lullaby, while The Little Piper has a virtuoso, improvisatory air about it. Here the Hungarian scale, a minor scale with an augmented fourth and major seventh, has importance. Children's Song is in gentle mood. The last act centres on Mosonyi himself. Children gather round, in memory of a young friend, and then listen to the stories the composer tells, before joining in a final farewell chorus.
Mosonyi's next set of pieces, Studies for Development in the Performance of Hungarian Music, was completed in 1860. This cycle consists of twenty works, in style near that of the Hungarian Children's World. During the composer's life-time these pieces were well known to Hungarian children learning the piano. The whole series is based on a pedagogical concept and aims at the technical and musical development of children studying the piano. In his introduction to the original series Mosonyi explained that his reason for composing the work was to spread a knowledge of true Hungarian style, derived from Hungarian folk-music, particularly among the young, wherever they lived, in the town or the country. He emphasized the responsibility of general school teachers in establishing the basis of the national culture of the following generations.
Mosonyi's aim was not only to write pedagogical compositions but to achieve a high artistic standard. Some of these pieces he later included in his two Hungarian operas and in his Festival Music. Some contain different elements of historic Hungarian melodies. In the second piece there is a quotation of the famous Rákóczi melody and in the fifth a Kossuth tune, its name derived from one of the leaders in the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848-49. The sixth contains a reference to one of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, and the whole series is an admirable introduction to the performance of these well known compositions of Liszt. The tenth piece is in the style of a verbunkos, while the thirteenth makes demands on the left hand, with reference here to the gypsy cellist Károly Fátyol. The sixteenth piece ends with a cadence known from Mosonyi's Festival Music, where the theme of the middle section of the seventeenth is also found. Here the coda is introduced by a figure that imitates drum and trumpet, moving from soft to loud and to the Rákóczi March. The eighteenth piece has a reference to Ferenc Erkel's opera Hunyadi László, based on events in the history of the fifteenth century. The penultimate piece, The Nightingale's Lament for Béni Egressy, honours the composer of one of Hungary's national anthems, the Szózat (Appeal), the mood of mourning, in C sharp minor, ending in the faith and hope of C sharp major. The series ends with what might well be an untitled Hommage à Liszt.
© 1994 Dr. Dezsö Legány
István Kassai was born in Budapest in 1959 and was admitted to the Bartók Conservatory at the age of ten. In 1972 he was first prize-winner in the Czechoslovakian International Youth Piano Competition. He then went on to study under Pál Kadosa at the Ferenc Liszt Academy and won first prize in the Hungarian Broadcasting Company's Piano Competition. In 1982 Kassai was granted his diploma by the Academy later going on to win first prize in the Debussy International Piano Competition. Having won a scholarship to study at the European Conservatory of Music in Paris he gained a master diploma with the highest distinction in 1984. Since 1987 he has been one of the pianists of the Cziffra Foundation.
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