“By 1790, ‘without question the living composer most loved by young and old’ was not Haydn or Mozart but Leopold Koželuch.”
So writes Christopher Hogwood (quoting from Ernst Ludwig Gerber’s Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, Leipzig, 1790) in his deftly compelling introduction to Bärenreiter’s new score Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas, BA 11565.
This opening claim is not the only surprise in this excellent new publication, which is surely an essential purchase for anyone teaching intermediate pianists, and for players of all ages at this level. So let’s find out more…
Leopold Koželuch (1747-1818) hailed from Velvary in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) and was educated in Prague before arriving in Vienna in 1778, where he quickly established himself as a teacher, composer and pianist. His pupils included Maria Theresia Paradis, Archduchess Elisabeth of Württemberg and Archduchess Marie Louise.
Koželuch seems to have been adept at cultivating connections with influential members of Viennese society and beyond, and in 1792 he succeeded Mozart (and was paid twice his salary!) as music director and composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Franz II.
In 1784 Koželuch had also founded his own music publishing firm, Musikalisches Magazin, which became an organ through which he promoted his own music in Vienna and beyond. Hogwood tells us that Koželuch’s
“…concern for accommodating the tastes and talents of amateurs as well as professional ensured it the widest circulation. His keyboard writing also reflected his preference for the relatively new piano, and the popularity of his sonatas was such that Koželuch was credited with inspiring the “vogue of the fortepiano” at the eventual expense of the harpsichord.”
Koželuch eventually left around 400 compositions, including 30 symphonies, 22 piano concertos, 2 clarinet concertos, 24 violin sonatas, 63 piano trios and 6 string quartets, as well as operas, oratorios and ballets.
Koželuch’s 50 solo keyboard sonatas span the length of his career, from easy classical pieces to works that anticipate the Romantic pathos soon to be found in Beethoven and Schubert’s keyboard works.
Encompassing virtuosic concert works, amateur, domestic and pedagogic music, this wonderful body of work has been reborn and popularised through Hogwood’s complete Sonatas edition for Bärenreiter, which appeared in four volumes between 2010-2015.
Six Easy Sonatas
Drawn from this complete edition, the Six Easy Sonatas in this new taster compilation are:
- Sonata 37 in G major
- Sonata 47 in E flat major
- Sonata 7 in D major
- Sonata 46 in C major
- Sonata 10 in F major
- Sonata 14 in G major
Hogwood suggests that these are the least difficult of the complete cycle, and he has arranged them in roughly progressive order here.
Thus the collection begins with Sonata 37 in G, which would suit a player around UK Grade 4. To introduce you to the charm of this lovely piece, I have knocked out a quick recording (playing the Erard 1922 piano model in Pianoteq 7.1) of the first movement for your enjoyment here:
This movement is followed by a Menuetto and closing Allegro. The other five Sonatas in the volume are similarly cast in two or three short movements. The most difficult music here would be at the top end of intermediate level, around UK Grade 6.
In short, these Sonatas are similar in scope and style to the Sonatinas of Clementi and Kuhlau, and certainly deserve the continuing popularity of those works.
Questions of presentation gain added importance with scores that are very likely to be used particularly with younger players. However, Bärenreiter have kept this volume within the same house style as that used for the four volume Complete Edition, thereby extending its appeal to players of all ages.
Within, the 48-page book is printed on quality cream paper, and begins with the engaging preface by Hogwood (presented in English, Czech and German).
In addition to providing biographical and historical information of interest and notes on the editing of the scores, this also includes helpful suggestions on how to realise the ornamentation.
The scores are cleanly and spaciously presented in Bärenreiter’s usual music engraving font, but (disappointingly for music aimed at this level) include no fingering suggestions.
Koželuch composes music with an easy melodic appeal, as delicious as it is memorable. In my experience, the delightfully positive music of the Viennese classical era remains reliably popular with many students, and with players of all ages.
Borrowing from his triumphant complete Sonata edition, Hogwood has once again admirably furthered his cause of restoring Koželuch’s keyboard music to its rightful place in the public eye. Were these Sonatas not to take their place as staples of the pedagogic repertoire in the coming years, it would be a serious pity.
While history allows us to reappraise the relative importance and merits of composers, there can be no denying the attraction of Koželuch’s music, and I have no difficulty in understanding his popular prominence in 1790’s Vienna.
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