As stringent a critic of his fellow composers as he was of himself, Mendelssohn wrote in unusually effusive terms about the Etudes Op.70 when Moscheles sent them to him in 1829. ‘Your splendid Etudes are the best pieces of music that I have heard for a long time, as instructive and useful for the musician as they are gratifying for the listener. Might you be prepared to publish a third volume? You would be rendering a service to all music lovers.’
The Op.70 Etudes have attracted previous recordings, complete and in part, but they are presented here for the first time on instruments of the composer’s time – an 1844 Erard and a modern copy of an 1819 Graf model – thus releasing and intensifying the colour and playfulness of works which transcend their didactic origins.
Some of technical and tonal innovations in these studies represented a creative stimulus for composers including Schumann, Liszt and Chopin. Schumann dedicated his ambitious Sonata Op.14 to Moscheles, and believed that the Op.70 Etudes made his friend one of the greatest composers of piano music of the age. Surely the greatest piano teacher of his age – perhaps the greatest ever – Chopin religiously used the Op.70 Etudes for instruction as a kind of New Testament to set alongside Bach and Beethoven. Moreover, they clearly made a considerable impact on his own Etudes, Op.10 and Op.25. No.23 of Moscheles’s set is the only explicitly programmatic one, cast as ‘a battle among demons’, but there is no shortage of immediate drama and theatre throughout the set, especially in the hands of Michele Bolla.
‘Fine performances, and well recorded,’ was the verdict of Gramophone on Michele Bolla’s Piano Classics album of the Piano Sonatas by Moscheles (PCL10188). This new recording of the Etudes is sure to win equally warm praise and a new audience for its composer.
Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) was born in Prague. In 1808 he settled in Vienna where he was a pupil of Albrechtsberger and Salieri - thanks to whose commendations he became adjunct Kapellmeister to the Court Theatre from 1811 to 1813. Beethoven was so impressed by him that he entrusted him with the piano transcription of Fidelio. The approval of Beethoven and the establishment of a friendship between them that would continue over time were pivotal in those years to launching the young musician into the stream of the international concert world. Moscheles was a key figure in the transition period between the generation rooted in classicism (Hummel, Field, Cramer, Kalkbrenner, etc.) and the early romantics. His musical language may be best compared to that of Mendelssohn, his pupil and friend.
The Op.70 Etudes form an important source for piano teaching and are an excellent introduction to the Etudes by Chopin and Liszt; these 24 studies contain an abundance of brilliant pianism, attractive touches of romanticism and quite some pianistic innovations that were to undergo further development in future years by Schumann, Chopin and Liszt.
The winner of several piano competitions in his native Italy, Michele Bolla specializes in music of the Classical and early-Romantic period, working on both historical and modern instruments. On this recording he plays a fortepiano built by McNulty after Conrad Graf 1819, and a fortepiano Erard 1844. His previous recording of Moscheles (The Complete Piano Sonatas PCL10188)) met with great critical acclaim in the international press.