Ignaz Moscheles

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Moscheles, from a portrait by his son Felix Moscheles, c. 1860. Ignaz Moscheles 1860.jpg
Moscheles, from a portrait by his son Felix Moscheles, c. 1860.

Isaac Ignaz Moscheles (German pronunciation: [ˈig.nats ˈmɔ.ʃɛ.lɛs] ) (23 May 1794 [1] 10 March 1870) was a Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso, whose career after his early years was based initially in London, and later at Leipzig, where he joined his friend and sometime pupil Felix Mendelssohn as Professor of Piano at the Conservatoire.

Bohemia Historical region in the Czech Republic

Bohemia is the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, Bohemia sometimes refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in a historical context, such as the Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by Bohemian kings.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Piano musical instrument

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

Contents

Life

Early career

Moscheles was born 1794 in Prague, Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation to an affluent German-speaking Jewish merchant family. His first name was originally Isaac. His father played the guitar and was keen for one of his children to become a musician. Initially his hopes fixed on Ignaz's sister, but when she demurred, her piano lessons were transferred to her brother. Ignaz developed an early passion for the (then revolutionary) piano music of Beethoven, which the Mozartean Bedřich Diviš Weber, his teacher at the Prague Conservatory, attempted to curb, urging him to focus on Bach, Mozart and Muzio Clementi. [2]

Prague Capital city of Czechia

Prague is the capital and largest city in Czechia, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the northwest of Czechia on the Vltava river, Prague is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

History of the Jews in Germany

The history of the Jews in Germany goes back to the Early Middle Ages and High Middle Ages when Jewish settlers founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community. The community survived under Charlemagne, but suffered during the Crusades. Accusations of well poisoning during the Black Death (1346–53) led to mass slaughter of German Jews and they fled in large numbers to Poland. The Jewish communities of the cities of Mainz, Speyer and Worms became the center of Jewish life during Medieval times. "This was a golden age as area bishops protected the Jews resulting in increased trade and prosperity." The First Crusade began an era of persecution of Jews in Germany. Entire communities, like those of Trier, Worms, Mainz and Cologne, were murdered. The war upon the Hussite heretics became the signal for renewed persecution of Jews. The end of the 15th century was a period of religious hatred that ascribed to Jews all possible evils. The atrocities during the Khmelnytsky Uprising committed by Khmelnytskyi's Cossacks drove the Polish Jews back into western Germany. With Napoleon's fall in 1815, growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression. From August to October 1819, pogroms that came to be known as the Hep-Hep riots took place throughout Germany. During this time, many German states stripped Jews of their civil rights. As a result, many German Jews began to emigrate.

Ludwig van Beethoven 18th and 19th-century German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

After his father’s early death, Moscheles settled in Vienna in 1808. His abilities were such that he was able to study in the city under Albrechtsberger for counterpoint and theory and Salieri for composition. At this time he changed his first name from 'Isaac' to 'Ignaz'. He was one of the leading virtuosi resident in Vienna during the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna and it was at this time that he wrote his enormously popular virtuosic Alexander Variations, Op. 32, for piano and orchestra, which he later played throughout Europe. Here too he became a close friend of Meyerbeer (at that time still a piano virtuoso, not yet a composer) and their extemporized piano-duets were highly acclaimed. [3] Moscheles was also familiar with Hummel and Kalkbrenner. Among the virtuosi of the 1820s, Hummel, Kalkbrenner, Cramer, Herz and Weber were his most famous rivals. [4]

Vienna Capital city and state of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today it is the second largest German-speaking city after Berlin and just before Hamburg. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger Austrian music educator, composer and organist

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger was an Austrian composer, organist, and music theorist and one of the teachers of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Antonio Salieri Italian classical composer and conductor

Antonio Salieri was an Italian classical composer, conductor, teacher and rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was born in Legnago, south of Verona, in the Republic of Venice, and spent his adult life and career as a subject of the Habsburg Monarchy.

While in Vienna Moscheles was able to meet his idol Beethoven, who was so impressed with the young man's abilities that he entrusted him with the preparation of the piano score of his opera Fidelio , commissioned by his publisher Artaria. At the end of his manuscript, before presenting it to Beethoven, Moscheles wrote the words Fine mit gottes Hülfe ("Finished with God's help"). Beethoven approved Moscheles's version, but appended the words O Mensch, hilf dir selber ("O Man, help thyself!"). [5] Moscheles's good relations with Beethoven were to prove important to both at the end of Beethoven's life. [6]

<i>Fidelio</i> opera by Ludwig van Beethoven

Fidelio, Op. 72, is Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto was originally prepared by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, with the work premiering at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 20 November 1805. The following year, Stephan von Breuning helped shorten the work from three acts to two. After further work on the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, a final version was performed at the Kärntnertortheater on 23 May 1814. By convention, both of the first two versions are referred to as Leonore.

Artaria & Co. was one of the most important music publishing firms of the late 18th and 19th century. Founded in the 18th century in Vienna, the company is associated with many leading names of the classical era.

Faith and family

Moscheles married Charlotte Emden (Henri Lehmann,1837) Charlotte Emden Moscheles, by Henri Lehmann.jpg
Moscheles married Charlotte Emden (Henri Lehmann,1837)

Moscheles was still a practising Jew in Vienna in 1814-15. His wife notes that he was a member of the congregation in Vienna, and that he wrote for the Vienna Jewish community an oratorio celebrating the peace. Throughout his life, like many other musicians of Jewish origin, he remained close to other musicians of similar descent such as Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Rubinstein, Joseph Joachim and Ferdinand Hiller. He also remained in contact with patrons of Jewish origin such as the Eskeles family in Vienna, the Leo family in Paris, and the Rothschilds in England. He married Charlotte Embden, daughter of a Hamburg Jewish banker and a cousin of Heinrich Heine, in a Hamburg synagogue in 1825. [7] Nonetheless, after he settled in England, Moscheles became a member of the Church of England.

Judaism The ethnic religion of the Jewish people

Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

The history of the Jews in Vienna, Austria, goes back over eight hundred years. There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Vienna from the 12th century onwards.

Felix Mendelssohn 19th-century German composer, pianist and organist

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Mendelssohn's compositions include symphonies, concertos, piano music and chamber music. His best-known works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides, his mature Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. The melody for the Christmas carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is also his. Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words are his most famous solo piano compositions.

His children, two sons and three daughters, [7] were all baptised at birth and he and his wife were baptised in 1832. They were parents to the painters Felix (1833-1917), their second son, and Serena Anna Moscheles (1830-1902), their second daughter and wife of Georg Rosen. [8] Rosen was Orientalist like his brother of Friedrich August Rosen, another friend of Mendelssohn, like Moscheles. His granddaughter Jelka Rosen, also a painter, married the composer Frederick Delius. Moscheles travelled extensively in Europe as a pianist and conductor, eventually settling in London from 1825-1846 where he became co-director of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1832. He never disavowed his Jewish origins and frequently took his family to visit his relatives in Prague, all of whom had retained their Jewish allegiances. [9]

Felix Moscheles English painter, peace activist and advocate of Esperanto

Felix Stone Moscheles was an English painter, peace activist and advocate of Esperanto.

Georg Rosen (1821–1891)

Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Rosen was a German (Lippe/Prussian) orientalist and diplomat.

Friedrich August Rosen

Friedrich August Rosen was a German Orientalist, brother of Georg Rosen and a close friend of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. He studied in Leipzig, and from 1824 in Berlin under Franz Bopp. He was briefly professor of oriental literature at the University of London and became secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1831.

Mendelssohn and the London period

After his Viennese period there followed for Moscheles a sensational series of European concert toursit was after hearing Moscheles play at Carlsbad that the boy Robert Schumann was fired to become a piano virtuoso himself. But Moscheles found an especially warm welcome in London, where in 1822 he was awarded an honorary membership of the London Academy of Music (later to become the Royal Academy of Music). At the end of the year he wrote in his diary 'I feel more and more at home in England' , and he had no hesitation in settling there after his marriage. Moscheles visited most of the great capitals of Europe, making his first appearance in London in 1822, and there securing the friendship of Muzio Clementi and Johann Baptist Cramer. Moscheles was also a student of Muzio Clementi.

In March 1823 Moscheles paid a long visit to Bath in Somerset and started work on his Piano Concerto No. 4 (Op.64). On an excursion to Bristol, Coleridge says that, "Moscheles delights in the view of the Bristol Channel and adds, "What can be finer than the first view of the Welsh mountains from Clifton? an enchanting panorama? The very place to write an adagio; the blue mountains form such a grand background to this bright channel." The piano concerto had its first performance, in London, shortly afterwards, on 16 June. [10]

Before that however in 1824 he had accepted an invitation to visit Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy in Berlin to give some lessons to his children Felix and Fanny. His comments on meeting them were: "This is a family the like of which I have never known. Felix, a boy of fifteen is a phenomenon. What are all prodigies compared with him? ...He is already a mature artist. His elder sister Fanny is also extraordinarily gifted." Shortly afterwards he wrote: "This afternoon... I gave Felix Mendelssohn his first lesson, without losing sight for a moment of the fact that I was sitting next to a master, not a pupil." [11]

Thus began a relationship of extraordinary intensity which lasted throughout and beyond Mendelssohn's life (he died in 1847). Moscheles was instrumental in bringing Felix to London for the first time in 1829 - Abraham entrusted Felix to his care for this visit. Moscheles had carefully prepared for it. In London, apart from becoming a regular and successful performer, as well as a musical adviser for the soirées of the Rothschilds, he had become an invaluable aid for Sir George Smart and the Philharmonic Society, advising them of the talents of European musicians he encountered on his own concert-tours. When Smart himself toured Europe in 1825 looking for new music and musicians for the Society, Moscheles furnished Smart with a list of contacts and letters of introduction, including both Beethoven and Mendelssohn. (In Prague, Moscheles's brother acted as Smart's guide). Smart visited the Mendelssohns in Berlin and was impressed with both Felix and Fanny. This eventually led to Mendelssohn's invitation to conduct at the Society on his 1829 visit. [12]

In 1827 Moscheles acted as intermediary between the Philharmonic Society and the dying Beethoven. He helped persuade the Society to send Beethoven desperately needed funds during the composer's illness. In return, Beethoven offered to write for the Society his (uncompleted) Tenth Symphony. [13]

Mendelssohn's great success in England from 1829 until the end of his life also reflected well on his friend. Although Moscheles's music was now being looked on as a little old-fashioned, he was heavily in demand as a music teacher and included amongst his pupils many children of the rich and aristocratic classes. He was also appointed 'Pianist to Prince Albert', a sinecure which nevertheless confirmed his status. [9]

Moscheles never ceased to promote the music of Beethoven and gave many recitals of his music: in 1832 he conducted the London premiere of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and he translated A.F. Schindler's biography of Beethoven into English. He was an early exponent of the piano recital - the concert of music for piano alone, the innovation of which is disputed between Liszt and Moscheles. Moscheles notably reintroduced the harpsichord as a solo recital instrument. He also often performed in concert with Mendelssohn in London (and elsewhere) - one great favourite of both musicians were Bach's concerti for multiple keyboard instruments. On these occasions Mendelssohn and Moscheles were renowned for vying with each other in impromptu cadenzas. Performances of the three-harpsichord concerto were given, on one occasion with Thalberg at the third keyboard, on another with Clara Schumann. Moscheles often appeared as a conductor, especially of Beethoven. [14]

The Leipzig years

Moscheles in Leipzig Moscheles in Leipzig.jpg
Moscheles in Leipzig

Although throughout this period Moscheles continued to write music and travel on concert tours, he depended heavily on teaching for income, and this placed him under considerable stress. When therefore Mendelssohn established a Conservatory at Leipzig in 1843 he was keen to attract his friend Moscheles there as a colleague, promising him ample time in his schedules for concertising and music-making. After several years, Moscheles gladly accepted the position in 1846. He became a longstanding and prominent member of the Conservatory faculty, teaching piano there for several decades.

The Conservatory became in effect a shrine to Mendelssohn's musical legacy. The critic and pianist Edward Dannreuther, who studied under Moscheles at Leipzig between 1859 and 1863, later wrote:

[…] it was whispered that the two old Grands in the pianoforte-room of the Conservatorium were wont to rehearse Mendelssohn’s D minor Concerto all alone by themselves, from 12.30 on Sunday night until cock-crow! Force of habit, probably. [15]

It thus fell to Moscheles to lead the counter-attack on Wagner after the latter's snide attack on Mendelssohn (and Meyerbeer) in his notorious article Das Judenthum in der Musik ("Jewry in Music"), which he did by requesting the resignation from the conservatory's board of Wagner's editor, Brendel. [16] Like Mendelssohn, Moscheles believed that music had reached its Golden Age during the period Bach to Beethoven, and was suspicious of (although not necessarily antagonistic towards) new directions such as those shown by Wagner, Liszt and Berlioz. Nevertheless, his personal relations with all of these (except perhaps Wagner) remained cordial. The Mendelssohn legacy in Britain meant that the Leipzig Conservatory had a high reputation amongst English musicians and amongst those who studied there during Moscheles's time were Arthur Sullivan and Charles Villiers Stanford. [17]

Moscheles died in Leipzig on 10 March 1870, nine days after attending his last rehearsal with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Music

Among his 142 opus numbers, Moscheles wrote a number of symphonic works. Apart from an overture, a ballet and a symphony, all are scored for piano and orchestra: eight piano concertos (of which the last has only come down to us in fragmentary form, no orchestral parts having survived) and sets of variations and fantasias on folk songs. The main theme of the finale of his fourth piano concerto is based on the tune "The British Grenadiers". Moscheles also left several chamber works (including a piano trio that has been recorded), and a large number of works for piano solo, including sonatas and the études that continued to be studied by advanced students even as Moscheles's music fell into eclipse. There are also some song settings. [18]

More recently, with the modest but noticeable revival of interest in compositions by this composer and those of his colleagues, more of Moscheles's works are being made accessible on compact disc, especially by small and independent record labels. All the completed piano concerti and fantasias for piano and orchestra are available on the Hyperion Records label, played by Howard Shelley, who also conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; they have also issued the complete piano studies, played by Piers Lane. Ian Hobson has also recorded the first six, and included a pair of variations not recorded by Shelley.

Sources

Much of what is known about Moscheles's life is derived from the biography, with selections from his diaries and correspondence, written after his death by his wife, Charlotte, and published in Germany in 1872; an English edition appeared the following year. The book also gives lively portraits of his era and of his musical contemporaries. [19] The diaries themselves are lost. Another important source is the correspondence between Moscheles and Mendelssohn, preserved at the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds, and published in 1888 by Ignaz's son (and Felix Mendelssohn's god-son), Felix Moscheles.

Notes

  1. Kroll (2014), 4
  2. Kroll (2014), 1-3
  3. Conway (2011), pp.127-30
  4. Kroll (2014), 6-20
  5. Conway (2011), 129
  6. Kroll, (2014) 8-9, Conway (2011),129.
  7. 1 2 Cf. Robert Eitner (1885), "Moscheles, Ignaz", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 22, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 345–351.
  8. Cf. Gregor Pelger (2005), "Rosen, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm", Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) (in German), 22, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 51–52; ( full text online ).
  9. 1 2 Conway (2011), 106
  10. Moscheles, C. (tr. A. D. Coleridge), Vol.1, pp.71-2
  11. C. Moscheles (1874), I, 98
  12. Conway (2011) 106-7
  13. Conway (2011), 108.
  14. Conway (2011) 106-9
  15. Anon (1898), 647.
  16. Conway (2011), 194
  17. Kroll (2014) 174-5
  18. Kroll (2014), 340-360
  19. C. Moscheles (1873), 2 vols.

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