miércoles, 26 de octubre de 2022

Thalberg, Opera Fantasies - Barbieri di Siviglia

In the early 1800s, concertgoers were mostly music professionals or knowledgeable amateurs. But it wasn't long before an emerging middle class moved in that direction. It is a time when music is moving beyond the courts and churches. As a result, specialized magazines and music criticism are emerging, and the publication of printed music is on the rise. The cultural horizon of the middle class widened and, one day, they decided that they also wanted to go to concerts.

New audience, new musicians
And for this new audience, there were also new musicians: pianists of outstanding craftsmanship who were also composers, although their work survives them faintly. In the first half of the 19th century, there were dozens of them.

Sigismund Thalberg
, born in Geneva in 1812 (two years after Chopin) was one of them. A pupil of Hummel and Moscheles, and possessing an extraordinary technique, he made his debut in Vienna in 1829 to great acclaim. From then on, taking advantage of his aristocratic and elegant bearing, he built up a good following, primarily women, almost, almost, in the style of Liszt.

Reaping success
A successful musician, he was also a gentle person. It was not unusual for his admirers to honor him with sumptuous gifts. One of them gave him a magnificent mansion in Vienna.
He toured all over Europe and the USA, achieving success everywhere. By the time he retired in 1863, he had earned more money than he could spend. So he went to Italy, where he devoted himself to winemaking. His retirement was for real: there was no piano in his Italian home.

Chopin's approach
And just as he had admiring colleagues (Mendelssohn, Schumann) he also had detractors. Chopin, not much given to praise, left only a sketch of his personality: "...women like him, he is younger than I am and makes potpourris with La Muette [an opera of the time]...".

Fantasies about operas
Indeed, Thalberg specialized in fantasies on operatic themes. He composed around fifty or more, which usually made up a large part of his performances. His music is not particularly ingenious or novel but it is pianistic to a high degree, and often very difficult. But it was short-lived. Today, from time to time some pianist recalls it, perhaps lest we forget that this music once captivated an era and an audience.

Grand Fantasia opus 63 - Variations on themes from The Barber of Seville by Rossini
At the piano, the Ukrainian performer Valentina Lisitsa.

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