About this Recording

Popular Piano Pieces Vol. 6

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Fantasia (Capriccio) in C major Hob. XVII: 4

Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907)
Erotik (Lyrische Stücke Opus 43 No.5)

Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Reiterstück (The Wild Horseman) (Album für die Jugend Opus 68 No.23)

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Impromptu in A flat major Opus 90 No.4

Joachim Raff (1822 - 1882)
Cavatina (6 morceaux Opus 85 No.3) - Transcribed by Balazs Szokolay

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809 - 1847)
Spinnerlied (Spinning Song) (Songs without Words Opus 67 No.4)

Fritz Kreisler (1875 - 1962)
Liebesleid (Sorrow of Love) - Transcribed by Sergey Rakhmaninov

Sergey Rakhmaninov (1873 - 1943)
Prelude in C sharp minor (Morceaux de fantaisie Opus 3 No.2)

Fryderyk Chopin (1810- 1849)
Barcarolle in F sharp major Opus 60

Belà Bartók (1881 - 1945)
For Children

Isaac Albeniz (1860 - 1909)
Sevilla (Sevillanas) (Suite española Opus 47 No.3)

Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852 - 1905)
Concert Arabesque on Motifs from The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II

The present collection of piano music includes a number of popular favourites, ranging in date from 1789 to the present century. The earliest piece is by Joseph Haydn, a composer who lived a long and productive life, largely in the service of one of the richest families of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Esterházy Princes, and for much of this time at the great palace of Esterháza on the Hungarian plains. a great complex of magnificent buildings that outdid Versailles in splendour. Haydn’s C major Fantasia or Capriccio is a work of rapid brilliance, written in homage to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, harpsichordist son of J.S. Bach, who died in Hamburg in 1788. Haydn's work was composed in 1789, during his last year at Esterháza.

Franz Schubert was Viennese by birth, if not by parentage, the son of a schoolmaster in the capital city and educated as a chorister of the Court Chapel under Antonio Salieri. He spent most of his short life in the city of his birth and in the company of friends, the first audiences for his many songs, his piano pieces and chamber music. By 1828 his music had begun to appeal to a wider public and to publishers, but he was never to enjoy the kind of material success that age might have brought him. The first group of Impromptus, the title apparently the choice of the publisher, was written in 1827, and the first two were published in the same year, the third and fourth following thirty years later.

Schubert lived at the beginning of a period in which the piano was to become the most popular instrument imaginable. Technology had provided the public with an instrument for domestic use that was relatively easy to maintain and admirably suited to the needs of the age. Robert Schumann set out to be a concert pianist, but turned instead to composition, after a Bohemian existence as a university student and a love affair with the favourite daughter of his piano teacher, who eventually, after a law suit brought by her father against Schumann, became his wife. Clara Schumann had been an infant prodigy and was among the most famous pianists of her generation. It was in 1848. towards the end of the Schumanns' life in Dresden, that Schumann wrote a set of 43 didactic pieces, primarily for the use of the two eldest of his own four children. The Wild Horsemanis as characteristic as any in the simple picture it presents.

Felix Mendelssohn, who assumed the name Bartholdy with the family's acceptance of Christianity, met a more adult romantic market with his many Songs without Words, pieces to which he generally gave no title, maintaining that music spoke with greater clarity than mere words. The Spinning Song has an apt title and was written in 1843, at a time when Mendelssohn's attentions were divided between Leipzig, where he had established the new Conservatory, and 8erlin, where the incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream was performed that year under royal patronage.

The Polish-born pianist and composer Fryderyk Chopin, son of a French father and a Polisher mother, spent the greater part of his life in Paris, where he settled after leaving Warsaw. In France he found a place in French society as a teacher and as a performer in the elegant salons of the capital. As a composer he created a new piano idiom that was very much his own, one of delicate nuance, subtle harmony, operatic melody and remarkable daring, while avoiding the more ostentatious virtuosity of some of his contemporaries. The Barcarolle, apotheosis of the Venetian gondolier's song, was completed and published in 1846.

Edvard Grieg, descendant of a Scot who had settled in Norway after the troubles of the eighteenth century and the final rising of 1745, must be seen as the greatest of Norwegian national composers, writing music that reflected the spirit of his own country and collaborating with the great dramatists of his time, Ibsen and Bjornson. He published ten sets of Lyric Pieces, admirably suited to the needs of the time and marked by his own characteristic originality of harmonic colour. Opus 43, from which Erotik is taken, was written in 1886.

Until recently it might have been thought that Raff's sole achievement was the Cavatina, a little piece that has retained its popularity in versions other than its original form, which was for violin and piano, written in 1859. Raff is remembered by some as an assistant to Liszt, when the great showman took up residence in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary to the Grand Duchy in 1848.

The later nineteenth century brought an increasing emphasis on national music, personified in Spain by the pianist Isaac Albeniz, whose career as a composer was briefly interrupted by association with Francis Burdett-Coutts, an English banker, and operas of an unlikely English kind, including an Arthurian trilogy based on Mallory. More characteristic of the music of Albeniz are the Spanish piano pieces. The Suite of 1886, of which Sevilla (Sevillanas) forms apart, includes music typical of Granada, Cataluña and Cádiz.

The great Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler wrote a number of short violin pieces for his own use, either as encore pieces or to fill one side of a record in the earlier days of the recording industry. A popular pair of such pieces, Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, present two sides of the coin of love, here its sorrow, imaginatively transcribed for piano by the Russian composer and virtuoso pianist Sergey Rakhmaninov. The latter's Prelude in C sharp minor was to haunt its composer, dogging his footsteps in his international career and constantly in demand from audiences.

Rakhmaninov had left Russia in 1917 and remained an exile from his native country for the rest of his life. Bartók too, in a later generation, found it necessary to leave his native Hungary, the source of much of his inspiration, and spent the last years of his life in the United States of America, where he died in 1945. The first volume of his For Children consists of forty short pieces based on Hungarian folk-songs, part of a larger work of 85 such pieces completed in 1909 and drawing on the composer's own experience as a collector of folk music in Hungary and adjoining regions.

The collection ends with a Concert Arabesque based on The Blue Danube by the younger Johann Strauss, the work of the Polish pianist Adolf Schulz-Evier, who wrote a great deal of showy piano music for his own use, but is nowadays remembered, if at all, only for this solitary example of his art.

Balázs Szakolay
The Hungarian pianist Balázs Sozkolay was born in Budapest 1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who is a composer and professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano when he was five and in 1970 entered the preparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy, where he completed his studies with Pal Kadosa and Zoltan Kocsis in 1983. He later spent two years at the Academy of Music in Munich, with a West German government scholarship.

Balázs Szokolay made an early international appearance with Péter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in 1979, and in 1983 substituted for Nikita Magaloff in Belgrade in a performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 of Brahms. He is now a soloist with the Hungarian State Orchestra and has given concerts in a number of countries abroad, including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987, he made his recital debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has won a number of important prizes at home and abroad, including, most recently, in the 1987 Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians Competition.

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