Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849) – Part 4

2. The other recording is with Kalkbrenner’s 2 concertos – Nr. 1 and Nr. 4, made in 2006 and played by the renowned pianist Howard Shelley to whom we owe so many wonderful musical discoveries.

I think in most cases, when a musician records some (especially unknown) music, it is because he (or she) likes, if not loves it. According to this preference will be the accompanying text – leading us into the composer’s world, perhaps telling some intriguing facts and, of course, explaining why this music is worth playing, and even more so – listening to.

With some excitement and expectation I opened the concertos CD’s booklet commented by Jeremy Nicholas. It began thus:

“Kalkbrenner was a German pianist and composer of colossal vanity”. – Unusual introduction, I thought. But if his music is lovely enough – who cares?
The next sentence made me smile: “after my death or when I stop playing” informed the composer the young Chopin, “there will be no (more –A.P.) representative of the great pianoforte school.” Oh, yes, that is a normal life process – nearly every generation of creators (and other mortals) feels like being the last one in some way. How many older, well known singers were convinced (and have said so) that the art of singing will die with them? But was the vain Kalkbrenner that laconic? My curiosity forced me to search for more. As it came, there was another part of the statement, found in Chopin’s letters and ending with: “…and you cannot create a new school without knowing the old one” – said Kalkbrenner further……..Myself I think that Kalkbrenner was right – he was one of the last of a great pianoforte school, the older one. Wilhelm von Lenz in his book “The great piano virtuosos of our time” written in 1872 recounts:” I was personally acquaitaned with all the great pianists of the first half of the century: John Field, Moscheles, Hummel, Kalkbrenner. Now we call this the “old” school (with exception of Field, who developed in his own peculiar way) – a school of piano-playing which if not founded by Hummel, was at least essentially influenced by him, and led to the new era of the pianoforte, to Liszt and Chopin”. The constant improvement of the pianoforte demanded a different way of playing it. If Kalkbrenner (and other pianists of his generation) still played much from the wrist and fingers, now the piano keyboards becoming heavier and heavier were to be played with much more weight, from the whole arm. The improved instruments offered more but required a new method, a new approach.

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