Friday, 22 January 2016

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll Part I

Since first understanding that Ignaz Moscheles spent much of his career in the United Kingdom, I have regarded him as an honorary British composer. Other contenders for this title are Felix Mendelssohn, J.C. Bach, Muzio Clementi, Johann Baptist Cramer and George Frideric Handel. This is not to deny their respective nationalities: only to point out the major contribution these men made to the musical life of this nation.
In recent years Moscheles has had something of a mini-revival. The first intimation was back in 1970 when Vox records released Michel Ponti’s performance of the Piano Concerto on G minor, op.58 coupled with a selection of Studies.  Over the following years there has been a steady trickle of CDs featuring mainly piano but also some chamber music. In 2000 the Zephyr label announced the first volume of the complete piano concertos, played and conducted by Ian Hobson.  Three years later Howard Shelley began another cycle for the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto project. This featured all seven extant concertos as well as the two fantasias Anticipations of Scotland and the Recollections of Ireland. In 2003 Piers Lane recorded the Complete Concert Studies on the Hyperion label.

During this period, there has been little literature produced concerning Moscheles. Listeners and historians have had to rely on articles in Grove’s Dictionary of Music, the standard histories of the period and contemporary biographies and memoires of some of the key players in his story.  There were a number of books published in the Victorian period which provided ‘primary’ source material. Charlotte Moscheles’ Recent Music and Musicians As Described in the Diaries and Correspondence of Ignaz Moscheles, Edited by his Wife. Adapted from the Original German by A.D. Coleridge. (1873) was the first book to examine the composer’s life and times. During 1888 the Letters of Felix Mendelssohn to Ignaz and Charlotte Moscheles were published in London by the composer’s son, Felix Moscheles (1833-1917). Felix also published Fragments of an Autobiography (1899) and In Bohemia with Du Maurier (1897) which provided material about the composer.
In 1989 Emil F. Smidak issued Isaak-Ignaz Moscheles: The Life of the Composer and His Encounters with Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and Mendelssohn. This consisted of extracts from the diaries and letters and a catalogue of works.
There are also a few theses such as John Michael Beck’s Moscheles Re-examined (1986) and Carolyn Denton Gresham’s Ignaz Moscheles: An Illustrious Musician in the Nineteenth Century (1980). Copious reviews of Moscheles’ concerts are found in contemporary newspapers and journals.

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe by Mark Kroll is the first full-length examination of the composer to be published.
A short sketch of the composer’s life will be helpful. Ignaz Moscheles was born on 23 May 1794 in Prague to a family of Jewish merchants. He attended the Prague Conservatory between 1804 and 1806 with the composer and musicologist Bedřich Diviš Weber (1766-1842). Further studies were made with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809) and Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) in Vienna. One of his earliest achievements was creating the piano score of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, under supervision from the senior composer. There followed a ten year period of European tours which included London in 1822 and 1823. In 1824 he gave piano lessons to Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn.
In 1826 Moscheles made the United Kingdom his home until his appointment as professor of piano at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatory in 1846. He remained in this post until his death, aged 75, on 10 March 1870.
In London, he led a busy life composing, conducting, playing and teaching. He gave the London premiere of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in 1832 and the first ‘successful’ British performance of Symphony No.9 at a Philharmonic concert in 1837.
His catalogue is extensive: there are eight piano concertos (No.8 piano part only), a symphony and much chamber music. Works for the piano feature a number of sonatas, many pedagogical studies and a wide range of variations, fantasies and pot-pourris of national airs. In 1841 Moscheles published an English translation of Schindler’s biography of Beethoven.
The present volume is not just a biography. It is also an investigation into certain critical historical events and periods relative to the composer. The book opens with three major chapters describing Moscheles’ life and times. It is a ‘story of a life well-lived’ which traces the journey from middle class Jewish family to ‘one of the most beloved, revered and influential pianists of the nineteenth century.’  Of especial interest is Chapter 2 which explores the 21 years that he spent in London. Mark Kroll examines all the facets of Moscheles’ career: conductor, pedagogue, composer and pianist. 

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll
The Boydell Press, 2014 hardback, 410 pages
ISBN: 978 1 84383 935 4
With thanks to MusicWeb international where this review was first published. 
To be continued...

No comments: