About this Recording

Romantic Piano Favourites, Vol. 7

The seventh in the Naxos series of Popular Piano Pieces includes music ranging from Mozart to Elgar, much of it from the romantic heyday of the instrument in the nineteenth century. The well known Pizzicato by the French composer Delibes was arranged for piano by the composer himself. Originally it formed part of the ballet Sylvia or The Nymph of Diana, an improbable enough pastoral story, the production of which in St. Petersburg in 1901 caused the resignation of the young Dyagilev, with profound effects on the course of ballet in Western Europe.

The Cradle Song of Brahms is all too well known and was written for the birth of a child to one of the members of the Hamburg Ladies Choir that he conducted as a young man, before his removal from his native city to Vienna. Felix Mendelssohn's Cradle Song, one of the 49 Songs Without Words that proved so popular, were largely intended by the composer to remain without words and without titles, since he felt that music spoke clearly and without verbal ambiguity.  

Franz Liszt, one of the greatest pianists of his time, retired from the concert platform in early middle age, devoting himself to composition and to the encouragement of new music. His four Valses oubliées, of which the first is included here, belong to his old age and were written in 1881. His transcription of Schubert's Shakespeare setting, “Hark, hark, the lark”, taken from the play Cymbeline, belongs to an earlier period of his life and was published in 1838 in a volume of twelve such arrangements.  

The French composer Gabriel Fauré, a pupil and friend of Saint-Saëns, epitomizes the spirit of France at the end of the nineteenth century, a time when a strong element of nostalgia for some unattainable past prevailed, as in the Berceuse for violin and piano, written in 1878-9, and subsequently orchestrated by the composer. The piece is in the tradition of Fryderyk Chopin, Polish by birth and sentiment, but resident in Paris for the greater part of his career. Among other forms, he developed that of the Nocturne, a poetic creation for the piano in which he was able to employ all those delicate nuances of which he was a master. The Nocturne in F minor was written in 1843.  

Enrique Granados died at the height of his powers, drowned in 1916 when the ship he was in was torpedoed, as he returned to Spain via Liverpool, after giving piano recitals in the United States of America. His Spanish Dances were written between 1892 and 1900, pieces that are quintessentially Spanish in character. The exiled Russian Sergey Rakhmaninov was also to find a warm welcome in the United States, when circumstances compelled him to make a living as a performer rather than as a composer. The song “Margaritki” (Daisies), transcribed by Peter Nagy for piano, belongs to the composer's last group of such compositions, written in 1916, the year before the Communist Revolution.  

The second half of the nineteenth century saw a romantic growth of nationalism, expressed both politically and culturally. Brahms, a native of Hamburg, nevertheless found inspiration in the supposed native music of Hungary, which he may first have heard from the violinist Reményi, his companion on his first concert tour in 1853. His Hungarian Dances, to which he added over a period of twenty years, found a ready market.  

Mozart settled in Vienna, in independence of father and patron, in 1781 and initially enjoyed considerable success both as a composer and as a performer, complementary activities. The Fantasia in C minor was written in 1783 and dedicated to his pupil Frau von Trattner with an earlier sonata in the same key. Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, six years after Mozart's death. He was never to enjoy or suffer the constraints or benefits of patronage, but spent his short life largely in the company of friends who admired his many songs and were delighted by the piano pieces he played, including the wrongly spelt Momens musicals, published in 1828, the year of his death.  

Edward Elgar's Salut d'amour was written in response to a poem from the middle-aged spinster who was to become his wife, and was followed at once by his proposal of marriage. The piece, originally Liebesgruss (Love's Greeting), sold very much better under the publishers' new title of Salut d'amour, a source of immense profit to them, and very little for the composer. Grieg's Melancholie, the fifth piece in the fourth of the ten albums of Lyric Pieces that he was to write, date from much the same period as Elgar's work and was published in 1888.  

Of Ponchielli's operas, only La Gioconda remains in modern repertoire. It was first performed at La Scala in Milan in 1876, with a libretto by Boito. The Dance of the Hours provides brief entertainment in Act 3 of what otherwise is a stark tragedy for the heroine of the title.  

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 Salazs 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 Sebók at Indiana University. Nagy has played in Japan with various orchestras, was in 1987 Artist-in-Residence at the Canberra School of Music in Australia, and has taken part in the festivals of Aix-en-Provence, Athens, Llandaff, Cardiff, Paris, Sonn, 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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