The last decade of the eighteenth century was a transitional period in the political as well as the cultural history of Europe. Aesthetic values underwent far-reaching changes everywhere: the field of keyboard music and keyboard performance was no exception. In Vienna, the once legendary performances of W.A. Mozart already seemed out of date for some musicians before the turn of the century. ‘Pearly’ playing gave way to singing legato style, and the occasional use of damper pedals. Of course, the appearance of the young Beethoven made a profound effect on the Viennese piano scene. He competed with four pianists on the keyboard (Gelinek, Wölfl, Steibelt, Vogler) in the course of his first ten years in Vienna: through the contemporary descriptions of these events we can learn a great deal about the current styles of piano playing. The keyboard works of the pianist-composers of the time varied in their style and level of craftsmanship. Textures became denser, and more demanding to play. The general style approached the tone of the early nineteenth century, Schubert’s in particular. Of the younger generation, Hummel was the first who performed on Viennese stages before the end of the century. After 1800, the significant Viennese debut of three young artists, Kalkbrenner, Czerny and Moscheles, initiated a new kind of bravura in pianism, which prepared the era of the instrumental virtuosity of the nineteenth century.
Betrachtung des Todes
, a late little masterpiece by the composer, represents the simultaneity of the old and the new. The text is the second verse of Gellert’s fourteen-verse poem ‘Wie sicher lebt der Mensch, der Staub!’, No. 50 in the volume
Geistliche Oden und Lieder
, 1757. In the short catalogue at the end of the volume Gellert names the hymn ‘Herr Jesu Christ, meines Lebens Licht’, as the appropriate melody for the poem. Haydn’s vocal trio with
is perhaps the most extraordinary setting in the series of the
(Hob. XXVb:3). Its harmonies and key changes uncannily foreshadow the language of Schubert and Mendelssohn. The musical representation of the poetic lines, on the other hand, is full of rhetorical devices. Most startling is the presence of figured bass, as an anachronistic code for the keyboard accompaniment. Co-existence of Baroque and Romantic, or ‘First Viennese Modernism’ (James Webster): the roots of the composer’s professional education preserved in a highly innovative setting of an old Protestant poem, in the very last years of the eighteenth century.
Two separate publications of C. P. E. Bach’s keyboard works appeared during the 19th century in the edition of Hans von Bülow: Sechs Sonaten (Leipzig, Peters, 1862), and the ‘Concertvortrag’ version of a rondo movement in the Anthologie Classique (Berlin, Schlesinger, 1860). Both editions alter the original text heavily, by dressing it up in the raiment of the flamboyant and virtuosic style of their own time. The long Preface to the Sechs Sonaten, in which Bülow explains the necessity of a ‘revision’, but, at the same time, betrays his uneasiness about his procedures, is an extremely important document of the historical/artistic thinking of Bülow’s generation.Bülow’s revisions are examined in the following aspects of the music: enrichment of the keyboard texture; change of harmony; obliteration of the fantasia character; performance indications and tempo changes; abolishment of the aposiopesis. Differences between the original and the revised text are illustrated with several musical examples.Although Bülow was a true son of the nineteenth century, his attitude to textual fidelity was stricter than that of his colleagues. His troubled conscience about the revision of the C. P. E. Bach sonatas shows a fundamentally ethical principle, independent from the artistic disposition of his age.
The poetry of Paul Verlaine inspired several songs by Debussy. Il pleure dans mon coeur is no. 2 in the cycle Ariettes oubliées. The same poem is used as a motto for a short piano piece by Zoltán Kodály: no. 3 in the Seven Pieces for Piano, op. 11 (Esik a városban). The paper describes the madrigalesque word painting of Kodály’s composition on the one hand, and analyzes the modes of its melodic material on the other. In a broader context, the influence of French art (the music of Debussy in particular) on the artistic development of the young Kodály is discussed, as well as the two composers’ mutual estimation of each other.