Friday, February 23, 2018

Classical Keyboard

No. 272 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast272



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This week’s podcast completes our look at some of the great composers of the Classical era, with a specific focus on solo piano music.

The piano sonata occupies a large portion of the podcast, and for good reason. Like many “formulaic” works – the symphony comes to mind – the sonata finds its well-recognized structure under composers like Mozart, Haydn and later Beethoven and Schubert. Prior to the classical period, we can point to the many keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti as indicative of the sonata “in one movement” Another champion of the genre  was Padre Antonio Soler, a Spanish composer whose works span the late Baroque and early Classical music eras. He was an important contribution to the harpsichord, fortepiano and organ repertoire.

Padre Soler's most celebrated works are his keyboard sonatas, which are comparable to those composed by Scarlatti (with whom he may have studied). However, Soler's works are more varied in form than those of Scarlatti, with some pieces in three or four movements; Scarlatti's pieces are in one or two movements. Soler's sonatas were catalogued in the early twentieth century by Fr. Samuel Rubio and so all have 'R' numbers assigned. Today’s podcast opens with a few of Soler’s sonatas played on a modern piano.

Influenced by Scarlatti's harpsichord school and Haydn's classical school and by the stile galante of Johann Christian Bach and Ignazio Cirri, Muzio Clementi developed a fluent and technical legato style, which he passed on to a generation of pianists, including John Field, Johann Baptist Cramer, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Carl Czerny – many of these names were featured in recent podcasts He was a notable influence on Ludwig van Beethoven. Clementi also produced and promoted his own brand of pianos and was a notable music publisher.

Clementi composed almost 110 piano sonatas; some of the earlier and easier ones were later classified as sonatinas after the success of his Sonatinas Op. 36. However, most of Clementi's sonatas are more difficult to play than those of Mozart, who wrote in a letter to his sister that he would prefer her not to play Clementi's sonatas due to their jumped runs, and wide stretches and chords, which he thought might ruin the natural lightness of her hand.

Schubert's Impromptus are a series of eight pieces for solo piano composed in 1827. They were published in two sets of four impromptus each, catalogued as D. 899 and D. 935 respectively. They are considered to be among the most important examples of this popular early 19th-century genre.

Today’s podcast features the second set. As the first and last pieces in this set are in the same key (F minor), and the set bears some resemblance to a 4-movement sonata, these Impromptus have been accused of being a sonata in disguise, notably by Robert Schumann and Alfred Einstein. However, this claim has been disputed by contemporary musicologists such as Charles Fisk, who established important differences between the set of Impromptus and Schubert's acknowledged multi-movement works. It is also believed that the set was originally intended to be a continuation of the previous set, as Schubert originally numbered them as Nos. 5–8.


I think you will love this music too.