About this Recording

Popular Piano Pieces, Vol. 8
The eighth album of popular piano pieces covers a wide variety of music, from Gluck to Godowsky. The collection opens with a transcription by the great nineteenth century virtuoso Franz Liszt of one of Schubert's most popular songs, Die Forelle, which tells of the sad fate of a trout, clever, but not clever enough to avoid being caught. The original poem added a caution to unwary girls, but Schubert omitted the moral of the tale.

The famous Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler provided himself with a number of short pieces that he might play at the end of a recital or on a single side of a record. Liebesfreud, the other side of the coin to Liebesleid, the Sorrow of Love, was transcribed for the piano by the Russian pianist, composer and conductor Sergey Rakhmaninov.

Liszt, Hungarian by birth, was taken to Paris as a boy and settled there until an affair with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult, obliged him to move elsewhere. The years of travel that followed, while he continued to pursue his career as one of the most remarkable concert pianists the world has seen, gave rise to a series of pieces, collected under the title Années de Pèlerinage. The second of these, devoted to Italy, includes musical translations of three sonnets by the Renaissance laureate Petrarch, composed during a stay in Rome and devised as songs as well as piano transcriptions.

The 49 Songs without Words written by Mendelssohn provided contemporary audiences with much pleasure. Although the composer himself preferred generally to avoid titles for these short pieces, Opus 53 No.2 is sometimes given the title The Fleecy Clouds. It was written in 1839 and published two years later.

Brahms also found a ready market for his Hungarian Dances, publishing four sets of dances for piano duet and arranging half of them for solo piano. The first set so transcribed appeared in 1869, and reflect the interest taken in national music, whether genuine or imitated.

The ungrammatical Moments musicals of Schubert were written between 1822 and 1828, the year of the composer’s death, appearing as a set of six in July of that year, issued by his publisher Leidesdorf, the presumable perpetrator of the French solecism. The miniature pieces are of characteristic charm.

The Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s opera on the subject of Orpheus, the legendary musician of the ancient world, has for long provided flautists with a vehicle of self- expression. The first version of the opera was produced in Vienna in 1762 and starred an Italian castrato singer Guadagni who had learned his acting under David Garrick in London. It began a new period in the history of opera, in which there was a greater degree of realism than had been possible within the older conventions of the art.

Great composers have often turned their hands to lesser things, and Beethoven, no exception, wrote a number of sets of dances for the piano, music that had an obvious practical application in the Vienna of his time. Among these came several sets of minuets, published in the mid-1790s, to be followed in the next decade by sets of Laendler, Contredanses and Scottish Dances. The Minuet in G remains probably the best known of all.

Benjamin Godard, French composer and viola-player, won a considerable reputation for himself in Paris, particularly with his choral dramatic symphony on the subject of the Italian poet Tasso, a figure of romantic appeal. His many salon pieces found favour, but in the opera-house he won less success. and the Berceuse from the opera Jocelyn, staged in Brussels in 1888. survives almost alone from his six attempts at work on this scale.

Richard Ellenberg's Idyll, The Mill in the Black Forest, is followed here by one of the 30 pieces published by the Polish born virtuoso Leopold Godowsky under the title Triakontameron, the first of the thirty days to be spent in Tangiers, on the way back to Old Vienna. Juventino Rosas, a Mexican Indian, earned his living as a violinist and as a composer of salon music, including the five waltzes under the title Sobre los olas, wrongly attributed by some to Johann Strauss.

Chopin succeeded in creating from the waltz, a dance that had become the rage in ball-rooms and dance-halls, something very much more poetic, re-stating it in his own imimitable idiom. The Waltz in E minor, published twenty years after his death, was written in Warsaw in 1830 at the outset of the composer's career, which was to lead him first to Vienna and then, in 1831, to Paris, his home until his death in 1849.

The two sets of Etudes-tableaux written by Sergey Rakhmaninov, and published in 1911 and 1917, have' been described, with the Preludes, as miniature tone-poems. The dramatic E flat minor Etude-tableau from the second set brings the present collection to a fiery and impressive conclusion.

Péter Nagy
Péter 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 in West Germany, Switzerland, and the United States of America, where he took further lessons from Gyorgy Sebók at Indiana University. Na gy 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, Llandatt, Carditt, 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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