About this Recording

Masterpieces of the Romantic Piano

[1] MOZART: Alla turca from Piano Sonata No.11 in A Major, K. 331
A musician who exercised a strong influence on Beethoven and on the young Schubert was Mozart, who spent his last ten years in Vienna, dying there in 1791, the year before Beethoven arrived in the city. His Rondo alla turca represents Viennese interest in the mildly exotic, reproducing elements borrowed from the music of the great Turkish Janissary band, with its bass drums, cymbals and triangles, now transformed into something more akin to Western taste.

[2] BEETHOVEN: Minuet in G Major, WoO 10, No.6
In Vienna at the turn of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth the presiding genius, Ludwig van Beethoven, also turned his hand to sets of dances for the piano, music that had an obvious practical application. Among such compositions came several sets of minuets, published in the mid-1790s, with the Minuet in G the best known of all.

[3] BEETHOVEN: Andante in F Major, WoO 57, "Andante favori"
Beethoven's Andante in F, the so-called Andante favori is a close rival in popularity and was originally written with no amatory intention but as the slow movement to the famous piano sonata dedicated to Count Waldstein, a patron through whose agency Beethoven had introductions to many of the best families in Vienna, when he settled in the city in 1792.

[4] BRAHMS: Intermezzo in B Flat Minor, Op.117, No.2: Andante non troppo e con molto espressione

The last compositions Brahms wrote for piano were those published as Opus 117, 118 and 119, principally the work of 1892, when he apparently wrote a number of other piano pieces that were never published. The first group, Opus 117, consists of three Intermezzi The second in B flat minor, makes expressive use of an arpeggiated texture

[5] Waltz in A Flat Major, Op. 39, No.15
[6] Rhapsody in G Minor, Op. 79, No.2
The popular Waltzes, Opus 39, were written in 1865 and the Two Rhapsodies, Opus 79, were among the works Brahms wrote during another summer at Portschach in 1879. They were published in 1880 and dedicated to Elisabet von Herzogenberg, wife of an aristocrat of French ancestry, settled in Leipzig, where their house served as a centre for a circle of admirers of Brahms. While the texture and passion of the first Rhapsody may breathe the spirit of romanticism, the form is one of classical clarity, a rondo, in which the opening theme re-appears to frame more lyrical episodes, which finally predominate. The second of the pair, in G minor, is in classical sonata form, its passionate first theme contrasted with a second, marked misterioso.

[7] LISZT: Liebestraum No.3 in A Flat Major, Op. 62, No.3 (S. 541)
Franz Liszt spent much of his adolescence in Paris and in travelling as a concert pianist and acquired a cosmopolitan and less conventional approach to life. His third Dream of Love, Liebestraum is a piano arrangement of a setting he had made of words by the German banker-poet Ferdinand Freiligrath, O lieb solang du lieben kannst (O love so long as you can), advice that Liszt himself took seriously to heart.

[8] TCHAIKOVSKY: June: Barcarolle from The Seasons, Op. 37b
The second half of the nineteenth century brought a new generation of composers still imbued with the ideals of romanticism that had first been left at the turn of the century. In many countries these ideals had become associated with nationalism and nowhere more than in Russia, which saw a revival of national feeling that had been partly lost by the westernising tendencies of Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century. Tchaikovsky remained thoroughly Russian, in spite of a sound technical musical training that more fervent nationalists, amateurs to the core, regarded as distinctly foreign. Although he may be better known for his large scale orchestral music, he published a number of short piano pieces, some of which earned him more money than more grandiose compositions, for which there was a smaller market. His Barcarolle from The Seasons was written for a monthly publication Nouvelliste and designed for the month of June, when a boat-song might be quite the thing.

[9] MENDELSSOHN: Spring Song in A Major, Op. 62, No.6 from Songs Without Words
Felix Mendelssohn, son of a prosperous Hamburg banker who moved to Berlin to avoid the depredations of Napoleon, was a pianist as well as a violinist and a composer of exceptional precocity. He developed a particularly winning formula for a series of short piano pieces that he called Songs Without Words, which is exactly what they were, in form and expression. Spring Song is among the best loved of these charming autograph-album vignettes.

[10] Dvořák: Humoresque in G Flat Major, Op. 101, No.8
The Czech Antonin Dvořák, no great pianist himself, sketched his famous Humoresque in America, where he spent a few years as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, writing it up in the tranquillity of his native Bohemia in 1894.

[11] TCHAIKOVSKY: Romance in F Minor, Op. 5
Tchaikovsky's Romanee in F minor was written in 1868 for the actress and singer Désirée Artôt whom he then imagined he might marry, in spite of his sexual orientation that was to bring later difficulties and perhaps even his final suicide.

[12] GRIEG: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, Op. 65, No.6
Grieg, an important figure in Norwegian musical nationalism In a series of albums of Lyric Pieces he added significantly to domestic piano repertoire, as in his very Norwegian Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.

[13] DEBUSSY: Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque
The later years of the century brought a remarkable continuation and transformation of the delicate tradition of Chopin in the piano music of the French composer Claude Debussy, haunted, whether he liked it or not, by a little piece that won exceptionally wide popularity, his Clair de lune (Moonlight), from the Suite bergamasque, a title redolent of the nostalgic spirit of the lime.

[14] FIBICH: Poème, Op. 41, No.6
The name of Zdenek Fibich may be joined with those of Dvořák and Smetana, the founders of Czech musical nationalism in the second half of the nineteenth century. His Poème is taken from a set of Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences, published in 1894.

[15] RUBINSTEIN: Melodie in F Major, Op. 3, No.1
It has been the fate of some composers to be remembered, popularly at least, by relatively trivial compositions. Rubinstein, founder of the St Petersburg Conservatory and one of the most famous virtuoso pianists of his lime, as well as a prolific composer of operas and symphonies, is known above all as the composer of a Melodie in F, an undemanding little piece.

[16] BADARZEWSKA-BARANOWSKA: The Maiden's Prayer
Composers and music publishers in the nineteenth century were quick to realise the importance of the new market for short piano pieces that were not too demanding Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska's well known Maiden's Prayer was an aptly named response to just such a maiden need for playable and attractive repertoire, ensuring the otherwise unknown composer a measure of immortality.

[17] PADEREWSKI: Minuet in G Major, Op.14, No.1
Music and politics seem a world apart. The great pianist Paderewski, however, was to become Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in newly independent Poland in 1919, positions from which he retired in the following year, later resuming his international career as a performer. Although he did not write exclusively for the piano, Paderewski's works include a number of smaller scale piano pieces, among which the Minuet in G major enjoys particular favour.

[18] ALBENIZ: Tango in D Major

[19] RACHMANINOV: Prelude in C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No.2
In Spain a national musical idiom was extended into art-music by composers like the pianist Albéniz, here represented by a lively Tango, while the more dramatic spirit of fin-de-siècle Russia is epitomized by the notorious Prelude in C sharp minor of the pianist and composer Sergey Rachmaninov, who was constantly haunted by request after request for a little piece that he regretted ever having written.

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