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Duets - Released March 9, 2018 | Ramée
At a time when Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven dominated musical life in Vienna, Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750-1817) was active at the court of Mainz as a highly respected and acclaimed pianist and composer. In 1768, he received the minor orders and a post as organist and in 1774 he was ordained priest. His first compositions were written at this time: sonatas for piano, violin and cello, arias, and symphonies. At that time he met the Bohemian horn virtuoso Giovanni Punto (born Johann Wenzel Stich) who took some of his early works to Paris. His eight symphonies enjoyed triumphant success at the famous concert series of the “Concert Spirituel” in Paris, were performed some fifty-two times, and Sterkel rose to the rank of the most frequently played composer in Paris from 1777 to 1779. After numerous trips to Italy, Sterkel returned to Mainz in 1782 and devoted himself to composition without interruption from that time onwards. In addition, he confirmed his reputation as a pianist through his intense activity as a soloist and a chamber musician. The works recorded here come from this period of Sterkel's creative career. The Romance from the collection Six pièces pour le clavecin ou piano-forté Op. 24 was published in 1785, the Grande Sonate pour Clavecin ou Piano Forte avec un Violon obligé Op. 25 in 1786, the Six Sonatas Op. 33 and 34, which include the Sonata No. 1 in F major recorded here, were printed in 1792. Although the fortepiano, thanks to its wider range of timbres and its much greater dynamic possibilities, was beginning its unstoppable triumphal progress towards becoming the keyboard instrument of choice in the second half of the eighteenth century, these editions were labelled 'for harpsichord or pianoforte'. However, dynamic markings in the pieces such as 'crescendo' and 'diminuendo' clearly indicate which instrument Sterkel was writing for. Traditionally, in this period, sonatas for keyboard instrument were described as 'with the accompaniment of a violin', as in the works of Mozart and Beethoven. Nevertheless, the violin part in this literature is frequently on par with the piano in terms of virtuosity and musical density. It was only in the last year of the composer's life that the Fantaisie pour le Piano-Forte Op. 45 was published. Although Sterkel was a highly esteemed composer and interpreter in his lifetime and may be seen as a forerunner of Schubert in the realm of the art of the German song, after his death he met the same fate as many of his colleagues: he fell into oblivion. The aim of this recording is to make his charming, inventive and refined music known to a wider audience. © SM/Qobuz
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