About this Recording

Popular Piano Pieces

Popular Piano Pieces


1. Rustle of Spring, Opus 32 No.3                                              Christian Sinding     (Fruehlingsrauschen)                                                                   (1856 -1941)

2. Edelweiss - Idyll, Opus 31                                                        Gustav Lange

3. The Maiden's Prayer, Opus 4                                                  Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska

(La priere d'une vierge)                                                                (1834- 1861)

4. La Lisonjera (L'enjoleuse), Opus 50                                     Cecile Chaminade

(The Flatterer)                                                                                  (1857- 1944)

5. Adagio                                                                                          Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(2nd movement, Piano Sonata in F Major, K. 332)                 (1756- 1791)

6. Serenata, Opus 15                                                                     Moritz Moszkowski

(arr. Moszkowski)                                                                           (1854- 1925)

7. None but the lonely heart Op. 6 No.6                                    Pyotr ll’yich Tchaikovsky

(Mignon's song from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister)                   (1840- 1893)

8. Vocalise, Opus 34 No.14                                                          Sergey Rakhmaninov

(transcribed by Zoltan Kocsis)                                                   (1873- 1943)

9. Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Opus 64 No.2                                 Fryderyk Chopin

(1810- 1849)

10. Greensleeves                                                                            English Traditional

(arr. Friedrich Buck)

11. Melodie in G Flat Major, Opus 16 No.2                               Ignacy Jan Paderewski

(1860- 1941)

12. Clair de lune                                                                              Claude Debussy                                  (from Suite bergamasque)                                                           (1862 -1918)

13. On Wings of Song, Opus 34 No.2                                        Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy        (Auf Fluegeln des Gesanges)                                                     (1809- 1847)

14. Slavonic Dance No.2 in E Minor, Opus 46 No.2               Antonin Dvorak

(1841 -1904)


The development of the pianoforte during the late eighteenth and earlier nineteenth century brought the instrument enormous popularity, as it replaced the more fragile harpsichord as the means, above all, of domestic entertainment. Much of the popular music included here was written with this lucrative market in mind.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the earliest of the composers represented here, unless we are to include the traditional English song Greensleeves, attributed erroneously by some to King Henry VIII, earned a living for himself, in the last ten years of his life, by teaching, performing and writing music principally for his own use. In letters home to Salzburg from Vienna, where he had settled in 1781 in independence both of a patron and of his anxious father, he mentions three piano sonatas, which he is sending to his sister Anna-Maria. These sonatas, of which the F Major Sonata, K. 332, is the third, seem to have been written in Vienna in 1783. The slow movement of the sonata is a fine example of Mozart at his most moving.

The Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin belongs to the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Born in Warsaw in 1810, he moved to Paris, where he established himself as a teacher and as ~ pianist of poetic delicacy, while writing music for the instrument that coupled an operatic melodic invention with an imaginative and adventurous use of harmony and an expansion of existing forms. The Waltz in C Sharp Minor is a good example of the magic he could impart to a dance that had taken the ballrooms of Europe by storm.


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the second half of his surname assumed in honour of a relative who, like his own branch of the family, had turned to Christianity, provided his contemporaries with a number of albums of short piano pieces of great charm. On Wings of Song, however, was originally a setting of a poem by Heinrich Heine, written in 1840, and was to prove enormously popular.


Goethe, the great German writer and polymath, had been visited by the boy Mendelssohn at Weimar, and predicted for him a great future, provided he was not spoiled by the women, who seemed likely to make much of him. The novel Wilhelm Meister had long proved a happy source for composers in search of texts. The book, a Bildungsroman, introduces the mysterious gypsy girl Mignon, and her songs were to be set to music by many composers, from Schubert onwards. Tchaikovsky was to set three of the songs, to Russian adaptations, and of these the song known in English as None but the lonely heart, aversion of Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, has won an enduring position.


The Bohernian composer Antonin Dvorak was a near contemporary of Tchaikovsky, a man of peasant origin and of a much simpler cast of mind than the neurotic and diffident Russian. Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, originally written in the form used here, for piano duet, were a popular sequel to his earlier Moravian Dances, providing domestic duettists with a particularly lively addition to their repertoire.


The innovative poetic use of the piano initiated by Chopin was to lead, towards the end of the nineteenth century, to the piano pieces of the French composer Claude Debussy, who was to take still further the possibilities suggested by his predecessor. Clair de lune, the third piece in the Suite bergamasque, enjoyed a popularity that the composer found irritating, since audiences would demand the piece, preferring it unjustifiably, it seemed, to music of greater weight.


The Russian pianist and composer Sergey Rakhmaninov suffered similar discomfort from the excessive popularity of one of his Preludes. He never seems to have objected, however, to the ubiquity of his Vocalise, written, as the title suggests, for voice without words, but widely known in a multitude of transcriptions which do nothing to diminish the beauty of the melody.


The Polish pianist and patriot Ignacy Jan Paderewski, briefly Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in his newly independent country in 1919, might have been similarly haunted by his Minuet in G, to which the Melodie in G Flat is a close rival.


Moritz Moszkowski, born in Breslau in 1854, was also of Polish descent and was to provide music that proved immediately attractive, whether as part of his own stock-in-trade as a pianist, or for the piano-playing public. His lighter music, markedly more successful than his more ambitiously conceived works, includes the orchestral Serenata, Opus 15, which he arranged himself for piano.


The Rustle of Spring, a piece that sounds rather more difficult than it is, has delighted amateur pianists anxious to impress. The Norwegian composer Christian Sinding was in fact a more substantial figure than this might suggest, with Wagnerian operas and symphonies to his credit, and a formidable number of songs, some 250 in all, ensuring him a place as the successor of Grieg in the musical history of his country.


Gustav Lange's popular Edelweiss is a slighter work, while the Polish amateur Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska might well have been forgotten entirely, had it not been for the phenomenal international success of The Maiden's Prayer, which no ambitious sequels could equal. Cecile Chaminade, whose languorous portrait used to adorn the covers of her many piano compositions, was a French pianist of considerable ability, her music offering something well suited to audiences in the 1890s, when she made a considerable name for herself also in England. La Lisonjera, The Flatterer, is a rival in popularity to her wistful Automne.




Peter Nagy

Peter Nagy was born in Eastern Hungary in 1960 and is among the leading pianists of the younger generation in his native country. He entered the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of 15, after winning various prizes at home and abroad, making his first professional international appearances in Finland and in Yugoslavia in 1977, followed by concerts at the Salzburg Interforum in 1978 in a duo with his compatriot Balazs Szokolay. In the same year he toured the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union and in 1979 made his debut in France at the Menton Festival. There followed concerts is West Germany, Switzerland, and the United States of America, where he took further lessons from Gyorgy Seb6k at Indiana University. Nagy has played in Japan with various orchestras, was in 1987 Artist-in-Residence at the Camberra School of Music in Australia, and has taken part in the festivals of Aix-en-Provence, Athens, Llandaff, Cardiff, Paris, Bonn, Cologne, Geneva, Moscow and Leningrad. He is at present soloist with the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and a member of the teaching staff of the Liszt Academy in Budapest.


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