About this Recording

Romantic Piano Favourites, Vol. 2

1. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
First movement from Sonata in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No.2 (Moonlight)

2. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809- 1847)
Songs without Words, Opus 102, No.5: Allegro vivace

3. Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Adagietto, No.3 from L'Arlésienne, Suite No.1

4. Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886) Hark, hark, the lark (Ständchen, D. 889)

5. Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840- 1893)
October: Autumn Song from The Seasons, Opus 37b

6. Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880)
Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann (arr. Peter Nagy)

7. Fryderyk Chopin (1810.1849)
Prelude in D Flat, Opus 28, No.15

8. Londonerry Air (Irish Traditional) (arr. Peter Nagy)

9. Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Moment musical in C Sharp Minor, Opus 94, No.4

10. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Andante cantabile from Sonata in A Minor, K. 310

11. Edvard Grieg(1843-1907)
Heimweh (Homesickness), No.4 from Lyric Pieces, Opus 57

12. Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886) Mephisto Waltz No.1
(Episode from Lenau's Faust: Dances in the Village Inn)

The first movement of Beethoven's so-called Moonlight Sonata must be among the most famous pieces of piano music ever written. Its popular title was the result of a remark by the poet and musician Rellstab, who suggested that the mood of the music conjured up a picture of a boat on Lake Lucerne in the moonlight. It is worth noticing that the French composer Berlioz detected sunlight here, while the scholar Arnold Schering, in search of literary parallels, chose Shakespeare's play King Lear as a possible source.

Beethoven himself never knew of the title "Moonlight", but resented the early popularity of the work, claiming that he had written much better music than this.

Mendelssohn's Songs without Words, of which he wrote a considerable number throughout his life, are pieces of great charm and elegance, miniatures ideally suited to their purpose, which might be a compliment to a hostess or pupil. The composer claimed for them a directness and lack of ambiguity, as opposed to words themselves, which must hold different meanings for different people. Opus 102, No.5, carries a clear enough title, The Merry Peasant.

The Adagietto from the French composer Georges Bizet's suite of music from his melodrama L'Arlésienne is transcribed from the original orchestral version of the work. L'Arlésienne was written in collaboration with Alphonse Daudet and sought to revive an earlier theatrical form in a tragic love-story, set in Daudet's Provence. Paris audiences were quick to find fault with a style of music that they regarded as Wagnerian, a judgement in which posterity has not concurred.

Shakespeare's song "Hark, hark, the lark at Heaven's gate sings", from Cymbeline, is probably better known in Schubert's setting than anything else about the play itself. Franz Liszt, the great virtuoso pianist of the nineteenth century, transcribed this, with other songs, for his own use in concert performance, at a time when piano transcriptions of well known melodies formed a popular part of current repertoire.

Nineteenth century Russia developed its own intensely national brand of music. Tchaikovsky, however, a product of the first attempts at systematic professional musical training in the country, represented what seemed at the time a more cosmopolitan approach in his use of Russian material. Although he is generally associated rather with the larger scale of orchestral music, he wrote a number of smaller pieces for the piano, including a set of twelve, under the title The Seasons, a musical calendar. October brings a late Russian autumn.

The famous Barcarolle, the Venetian boating-song from Offenbach's opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, opens the third act of the work, which firmly establishes the scene as Venice. In fact the song originated not from the Grand Canal but from the Rhine, forming part of a much less successful opera by Offenbach, Rheinnixen, The Sprites of the Rhine.

Fryderyk Chopin, who chose exile from his native Poland to make his home in Paris, occupies a special place in the history of piano music. Although some have tended to exaggerate a sentimental element in his writing, he was, in fact, a composer with a particularly original approach harmonically, preparing the way for experiments of the end of the century, while creating a delicately nuanced poetic language for the instrument. The D Flat Major Prelude is one of a set of 24 Preludes that go through all the keys, pieces demonstrating a wide variety of mood.

The Londonderry Air, an Irish folk-song described by Sir Hubert Parry as "the most beautiful tune in the world", has travelled far since it first appeared in print in 1855, acquiring on its journey words of various degrees of aptness. It is followed here by one of Schubert's six little character pieces published in the year of his death, ungrammatically, as "6 Moments musicals". Opus 94, No.4, has been described as a romantic excursion into Baroque territory.

Vienna occupied a dominant position in music at the close of the eighteenth century, but Schubert was the only one of the greater composers of the period to have born there. Mozart was a native of Salzburg, but quarrelled with his patron, the Archbishop, to spend his final ten years in uneasy independence in the imperial capital. His A Minor Sonata was written in the summer of 1778, three years before his breach with Salzburg, during the course of a generally unproductive visit to Paris, from which he and his father had had high hopes. During the summer Mozart's mother, who accompanied him on his journey, had died, and some have seen in this sonata a possible expression of his grief.

Musical melancholy of a more obvious kind is found in the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's miniature character-piece "Heimweh", taken from one of the ten sets of Lyric Pieces that he published. To this Franz Liszt's First Mephisto Waltz provides a diabolical contrast, its inspiration derived from the demon fiddler of Nikolaus Lenau's version of the Faust legend and itself contributing to rumours of the demonic sources of Liszt's own ability as a pianist.

Peter Nagy
Peter Nagy was born in Eastern Hungary in 1960 and is among the leading Hungarian pianists of the younger generation. As a child he showed exceptional ability, entering the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of 15, after winning various prizes at home and abroad. Peter Nagy's first international appearances as a pianist were in Finland and Yugoslavia in 1977, followed by concerts at Interforum in 1978 in a duo with Balazs Szokolay, and at Salzburg the following year. In 1978 he toured the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union and in 1979 made his début in France at the Menton Festival. Since then he has had further success in France, and has appeared in concerts in the Federal German Republic, Switzerland, Italy and the United States of America.

Close the window