About this Recording
GP629-30 - TÜRK, D.G.: Easy Keyboard Sonatas, Collections 1 and 2 (1783) (Tsalka)
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A recording and critical edition of the 48 keyboard sonatas of the North German composer, performer, theorist, and pedagogue, Daniel Gottlob Türk has long been overdue. Today Türk remains best known for his extensive and extremely detailed musical treatise, Klavierschule (1789), one of the most important sources for keyboard performance practice of the late eighteenth century. He is also well known among piano teachers as the composer of a collection of useful keyboard miniatures, the Kleine Handstücke für angehende Klavierspieler, which systematically prepare beginning students for the many challenges of more advanced repertoire.

Türk’s musical training, which he received as a teenager in Dresden from Gottfried August Homilius, a former student of Johann Sebastian Bach, thoroughly prepared him for the varied musical rôles rôles which he had to adopt throughout his professional life. When he became a student at the University of Leipzig in the early 1770s, the keyboard virtuoso, Johann Wilhelm Hässler, introduced him to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen (1753) and also to his keyboard sonatas. Shortly afterwards, Türk, under the supervision of his mentor and friend Johann Adam Hiller, began to compose his first two collections of sonatas TThese twelve works, recorded also by Michael Tsalka for Grand Piano (GP 627–28), were initially published by Breitkopf in Leipzig and Halle in 1776 and 1777. Because of their popularity the two collections quickly went out of print. Six more volumes of sonatas were to be released by Breitkopf in the 1780s and early 1790s.

Türk’s keyboard collections grow directly from his lucid understanding of the contrasting, expressive potential of the sonata genre as developed by North German composers during the 1750s and 1760s. For Türk, the keyboard sonata was the perfect aesthetic medium to express the boldest and most experimental of ideas. In Klavierschule, the composer expressed this idea in the following terms:

Among compositions written for the keyboard, the sonata probably has the greatest claim for being in the first place…Consequently this species of instrumental compositions presumes a high degree of inspiration, much power of invention and a lofty—I would almost like to say musical-poetic—flight of thoughts and of expression. Just as the subjects of the ode are uncommonly diverse and treated at quite different lengths, so is this true of the sonata.¹

Daniel Gottlob Türk’s two collections of Leichte Klaviersonaten (first published in 1783) present technically and musically simpler material when compared to his three collections for professional players (first published in 1776, 1777, and 1789). Despite this, the modern player and musicologist should not underestimate their musical interest and beauty. Reading through Türk’s preface to the first leichte collection and the many comments made about these sonatas in Klavierschule (1789), it becomes clear that the composer created them with the intent of systematically introducing his keyboard students to the rhetorical and expressive resources of the era:

Principally I thought of those amateurs who prefer the easy and pleasing elements of art; therefore I composed several movements, that connoisseurs will probably want to ignore: yet these pieces should not be, hopefully, completely overlooked. I do not advise the very beginner to play these sonatas. Occasionally, I have included [difficult] passages in smaller notes which the performer can omit. The critics might realize through these works that it is not the smallest of tasks, to compose short and easy works, without, in the process, becoming ordinary.²

During his initial years in Halle, the young composer became an experienced keyboard instructor, identifying the most common difficulties faced by the beginner. Türk came to the realization that his students benefited much from the meticulous discussion of those details that more advanced players found obvious: “It is…bad to allow the beginner to play something of which he still has no clear idea. Every little detail must be explained to him beforehand or in some cases even during playing.”3 The scores of the Leichte Klaviersonaten are heavily marked when compared to those of Türk’s two initial collections of sonatas, making note of phrase accentuation and articulation, ornaments, dynamic level, tempo variation, etc.

Movements with elaborate titles such as Allegro di molto con zelo e minaccioso (CD 2, Track 15), Andante innocentemente (CD 1, Track 11), Allegretto con tenerezza (CD 1, Track 7), which relate a section’s affective character to its temporal nature, are quite common. Such elaborate indications also reflect the composer’s suspicious attitude towards the mechanical innovations of the metronome, which he feared ruined the beat’s intrinsic inner flexibility and, therefore, its expressive core.4 Flexibility of the beat is well illustrated in the sudden dramatic shifts in the opening measures of the third movement of Sonata V in E minor, HedT.99.3.5 (CD 1, Track 15).

For the leichte sonatas, Türk created his first two keyboard sinfonias. In Klavierschule, the composer explained the pedagogical value and musical uniqueness of this type of composition:

Symphonies actually written for the keyboard are up to the present only few, perhaps for the reason that they are designed on a large scale and for a large number of instruments. Yet I do not wish to imply that keyboard symphonies would be contrary to good taste. The untrained player for whom the true sonata style is not comprehensible and enjoyable, through symphonies would gradually become accustomed to larger compositions…The composer should alternate bold thoughts and full-voiced chords with melodic passages in order to imitate to some extent the customary variety of instrumental symphonies.5

Türk realized cunningly that the “democratic” symphonic style would be more easily comprehensible to unsophisticated ears than the sonata style. From a pedagogical perspective, the keyboard sinfonia represented a rare opportunity to advance the technical skills of the pupil, while providing musical understanding and enjoyment.

Critical reception of the two volumes of Leichte Klaviersonaten was quite favorable. Carl Friedrich Cramer commented on the sonatas’ technical ease and appropriateness, as well as their overall beauty.6 His comments were echoed by Heinrich Christoph Koch in the third volume of his Introductory Essay on Composition almost ten years later:

Not only amateurs but also most artists are concerned more about expressive pieces than about difficult works…Proof is given by the sonatas of Türk, which are generally loved because along with the suitable presentation of pleasant feelings they do not frighten off the amateur by too many difficulties. Moreover, they are written in a style which is very affecting for any feeling not yet overindulged—all qualities which can rightly be required of compositions of this kind…7

Early keyboard performers, piano teachers and students, and musicologists will discover untapped riches in these expressive and historically relevant pedagogical works.

Michael Tsalka

¹ Daniel Gottlob Türk, School of Clavier Playing, trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, c.1982), 383–4.
² Daniel Gottlob Türk, “Vorrede,” Leichte Klaviersonaten, Erster Theil (Leipzig and Halle: Breitkopf, 1783). The translation is mine.
3 Daniel Gottlob Türk, School of Clavier Playing, trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, c. 1982), 20–1.
4 Ibid., 445.
5 Ibid., 384.
6 Carl Friedrich Cramer, Magazin der Musik, vol. 1, chapter 2 (Hamburg, 1783–6), 1279.
7 Heinrich Christoph Koch, “Introductory Essay on Composition,” vol. 3, part 2, section 4, chapter 4 (1793), in Oliver Strunk, ed., Source Readings in Music History (New York: Norton, 1978), 813.


Newton Centre, MA, USA
Used by Michael Tsalka for Türk recordings

HARPSICHORD. Made by Burkat Shudi and John Broadwood in 1781. This London instrument is an example of the final development of the English harpsichord. It has 2 keyboards of 5 octaves (FF to f’’’), and two 8-foot and one 4-foot choirs of strings. The registers and plectra are: Front 8-foot—quill; back 8-foot–leather; 4-foot–quill; and nasal—quill. It has 2 pedals, one operating the Venetian Swell, and the other the Machine Stop. The natural keys are ivory-covered; the sharps are ebony-covered.

Photo: Shudi and Broadwood Harpsichord (1781)
GRAND PIANO. This wing-shaped piano was made by Johann Andreas Stein in Augsburg, Germany in 1784. Its 5-octave keyboard (FF to f’’’) has ebony-covered naturals and ivory-covered sharps. Two knee-levers operate the damper mechanism. There are 2 strings per note throughout most of the piano’s range, and 3 strings per note in the top 14 notes. This piano was previously owned by the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art. Mozart favored Stein’s pianos, and this instrument has served as the model for many modern replicas.

Photo: Johan Andreas Stein Grand Piano (1784)
GRAND PIANO. Vincenzo Sodi, a harpsichord-maker, produced this piano in Florence in 1785. Its 5-octave keyboard (FF to f’’’) has ebony naturals and ivory-covered sharps. Two knee-levers operate the dampers. All but the top 8 notes have 2 strings, the rest, 3 strings. The action is Viennese, even though the first pianos invented by Cristofori in Florence in about 1700 had actions of a different type. Several Sodi harpsichords that still exist, but this is probably the only remaining piano by this important Italian maker.

Photo: Sodi Grand Piano (1785)
UPRIGHT GRAND PIANO. André Stein, son of Johann Andreas, made this piano in Vienna in about 1820. It is one of 2 Stein upright grands that still exist. The keyboard compass is 6 octaves (FF-f’’’’). Naturals are ivory, sharps are ebony. There are 4 pedals: dampers, partial moderator, full moderator, action shift (una corda). The lowest 7 notes have 2 overspun strings per notes, and the rest are triple-strung. The overall height of the instrument is almost 2 meters (77 inches.)

Photo: Stein Upright Grand Piano (1820)

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