Wednesday, 4 July 2012

IGNAZ MOSCHELES: A Brief Biography & Eulogy


I found this short note in a book written by Samuel Henry Morais in 1880,  Eminent Israelites of the Nineteenth Century: A Series of Biographical Sketches.  This was written a mere ten years after the composer’s death. It is not the most important contemporary notice, yet it succeeds in presenting a charming portrait of a once highly regarded composer who has largely fallen into neglect.  I have adopted him as an honorary Englishman for the purposes of this blog. Certainly the 26 years he spent in London and touring the country giving innumerable recitals and concerts deserves our attention. His name should be of vital importance to all British music lovers for his determined work to introduce the music of Beethoven to these shores.  
I append a few footnotes to this extract for interest.

The art of Music and that of writing are not necessarily twin-born. But it occasionally happens that the hand whose delicate touch evokes sweet strains can wield a graceful pen. This double acquirement adds lustre to the possessor, and éclat to his performances.
But in Ignaz Moscheles [1794-1870] three qualifications combined to render his name famous. He was admired as a player, a composer, and a scholar. True, many years were given him to reach the height he attained, but when very young he had already moved upward so rapidly, that all could predict his future greatness.

Ignaz Moscheles was born at Prague, in Bohemia, Austria, on the 30th May, 1794. As early as his eighth year he received instruction in music from F. D. Weber, [1] director of the conservatory. The boy's innate talents developed fast, and when eleven he performed on the piano with the ease and skill of a finished artist. His introduction to men of note naturally followed, and each hailed the rising genius.
While still a lad, Moscheles went to Vienna, and there formed the acquaintance of Haydn and Beethoven, who advised him to continue studying. He became the pupil of Albrechtsberger, [2] under whom he made such progress as to create amazement. He competed with Hummel [3], then reputed the first pianist in Germany.
Moscheles now undertook an extensive continental tour, his playing creating everywhere rapturous delight. In 1820 he removed to England, where he resided for twenty-six years. Here his abilities met with full recognition, his popularity' increasing to so wide an extent, that, in 1825, he was appointed Professor in the Academy of London; also Conductor of the Philharmonic Concerts, holding both stations more than two decades. It must be borne in mind that few could obtain the latter position, it being granted only to a musician of the very highest order.
Moscheles rendered incalculable service to the musical world, by inducing the English to cultivate the compositions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and other acknowledged masters. In fact, he brought more influence to bear upon this than any who preceded or succeeded him. His thorough knowledge of the pianoforte, and capacity to show forth its wonderful applications, mainly tended to the glory he achieved. Then his rendition of Beethoven's sonatas and concertos left him without a superior, and. probably, an equal. 
In 1846 Moscheles was chosen Director of the Conservatory of Leipzig, spending there the remainder of his life. As a composer, he wrote, for the piano, violin, and other instruments, pieces which are splendid specimens of classical music, and marvels of perfection and beauty.
Moscheles' cultured mind enabled him to search into matters other than those to which he specially devoted himself. His literary work, an English translation of Schindler's Life of Beethoven to which he added valuable notes, does him honour.
The career of Ignaz Moscheles ended at Leipzig, in Saxony, Germany, on the 10th of March, 1870, Productions of sterling merit will always declare their own praise, and he must be deaf to the voice of truth who does not hear the deserved eulogy.

Morais, Samuel Henry Eminent Israelites of the Nineteenth Century: A Series of Biographical Sketches (1880) E. Stern & Co. Philadelphia USA [with minor edits]

[1] Frederick Dionys(us) Weber (1766-142) was both a respected teacher and composer. He was a founder and the first director of the Prague Conservatoire.  He wrote a number of operas and music for wind band.
[2] Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809) was a Viennese composer, teacher and church organist. Amongst his many pupils was Ludwig Van Beethoven.
[3] Johan Nepomuka Hummel (1778-1837) was a Hungarian pianist and composer. He studied with Mozart. Between 1787 and 1792 he was resident in London.  His music lies at the crossroads between the Classical and the Romantic traditions. 

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