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Great Italian Masters for the Piano

[The first part of this article outlining the development of pianoforte music in Italy appeared in the January special Italian issue of The Etude.]
 A modern Italian writer, a musician and a man of importance, Luigi Torchi (1858—-), speaking of Galuppi's sonatas, gives this excellent advice to young people: "Develop your understanding and study Galuppi."
An illustrious example of the Bolognese school and a man of wide scholarly attainments was Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784), noted for the purity, elegant conception and happy inventiveness as made evident in his preludes and sonatas. Quite a few years ago Theodore 'Thomas, while still in New York, made his audiences familiar with an orchestral reproduction of Martini's Gavotte in F, originally intended for a harpsichord; it became forthwith popular, for every publisher had an edition of it doctored by this or that transcriber. Pauer gives it together with a Balletto in his Alte Klaviermusik. To-day Padre Martini is practically forgotten, yet the greatest musicians of his epoch turned to him for counsel. Tartini (1692-1770), with his doubts; Rameau (1683-1764), with his researches; Gretry (1741-1813), with his applause; Burney (1726- 1814), with extensive notices; Vallotti (1697-1780), Agricola (1720-1774), Raaff (1714-1797), Marpurg (1718-1795), etc., admired him, while the Piccini and Gluck factions submitted their memorable dispute to his final decision.
The twelve sonatas for the pianoforte of Pier Domenico Paradisi (1710-1792), dedicated to Princess Augusta, and printed by privilege obtained November 28, 1754, from George II of England, are of exceptional importance; they are of the period when piano music began first to be written, and bear on every page the stamp of modernism. It is music that should be used by teachers to develop a vigorous and natural train of musical thought in the mind of young students.
One of the great pupils of Padre Martini, of the Bologna School, was Ferdinando Bertoni (1725- 1813); his compositions, mostly chamber music, also six harpsichord sonatas, are of the most brilliant and romantic period of true Italian instrumental music. Of Giovanni Rutini (1730-1797), a Florentine, there are four collections of sonatas for the harpsichord, and Andrea Colizzi, born in 1740, wrote a number of things for the pianoforte, including a concerto with orchestra.
This brings us to Muzio Clementi (1752-1832), a Roman by birth, and founder of modern piano playing. Clementi surprised his contemporaries with a great number of most important and useful innovations on the instrument which he developed to be his medium of expression and the chosen exponent of his activity, for, like Chopin, he was a pianist- composer, and wrote felicitously only for that instrument. He studied Handel, Bach, Scarlatti, Paradisi, the influence of the last two being distinctly perceptible in his earlier works; later he became imbued with the melodic style and form of Haydn and Mozart, and from that time on he made use of three movements in his sonatas. Out of the large number of sonatas that Clementi wrote, the three great Sonatas, Op. 50, in A major, D minor and G major, dedicated to Cherubini, represent the composer's last and most elaborate style. To acquire this style he wrote the famous Gradus ad Parnassum, following which he established a manufactory of pianos, their mechanical construction being equal to the technical development of his school. In his study on Clementi, Adolphe Méreux says that in the allegro of his sonatas the style is broad, clear, full of character and unity; while his adagios and andantes are models of taste, the ornaments standing out in perfect distinctness. What a pity that piano players of to-day have so little conception of those beautiful embroideries, and that all these good things, easily obtained if the teacher will only use them, are supplanted by rhythmically, harmonically and melodic- ally unbalanced concoctions that find easy sale, but fail to make music lovers of young people! To this same period belongs Francesco Pollini (1763-1846), an Illyrian, who first studied with Mozart, afterward with Zingarelli; he wrote three sonatas, a number of toccatas, an Introduction and Rondo, Op. 43; two sonatas for two pianos, and, following the example of Thalberg and Liszt, a set of variations on "God Save the King" and "Rule Britannia."
Francesco Lanza (1783-1862) was the first to introduce the classic school of Clementi in Naples— his native city—where, in 1827, he was appointed to the chair of piano playing at the Royal College of Music. Four of his studies, recently published, are excellent examples of his style, technique and form, as based on the art of Clementi.
Born in Venice, Antonio Fanna (1792-1845) stands first among Italian pianists whose romanticism impresses itself on the observer by the amplitude of form and depth of conception. I will quote but one example, a Nocturne in B, in which a trill, combined with the melody, is accompanied by a bass figure; it recalls Kalkbrenner's Study No. 23, Op. 20; Charles Mayer's Study No. 17, Op. 168; Cramer's No. 12 and Döhler's The Trill, Op. 30, all of them presenting the same- combination, and in the same key! Having quoted Theodore Döhler (1814-1856), a Neapolitan, I may add that with him we enter upon a brilliant period of musical art, a period contemporaneous with Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin,- Thalberg and Liszt. Unfortunately for Döhler, he was a dealer in platitudes, yet he traveled as an very few of his compositions are of any value.
And now a few words about some men of more recent years. Alfonso Rendano (1853—-) comes from the little village of Carolei, near Cosenza; he studied at the Naples Conservatory and later became a pupil of Thalberg. Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909), pupil of Beniamino Cesi (1845—-), was an ardent disciple of Wagner, whom he taught his countrymen to know and appreciate; he was director of the Naples Conservatory when he passed away. His piano compositions, aside from other works, are remarkable for their style, and embrace varieties of form, including a concerto which attracted the admiration of Anton Rubinstein; Martucci's ten transcriptions of Ancient Dances and the beautiful Trio in E flat, Op. 62, are sure to delight a musician who is also an accomplished player. Constantino Palumbo (1843—-) is another favorite pupil of Thalberg. After concertizing with his teacher through Europe he returned to his native land to become professor of piano playing at the Conservatory of Naples. Although he absorbed the touch and style of playing so peculiar to Thalberg, he presents in his piano compositions individuality decidedly his own. Some of these are: Romance sans Paroles, Op. 3; Capriccio, Op. 6; Preludes and Fugues, Op. 49, 50 and 51; Gavotte in D (edited by the writer); Di Notte; Sarabande et Gigue; a Sonata Fantasia for piano, chorus and wind instruments, and a most effective Ballade, with which the writer has often pleased many audiences. Carlo Albanesi (1856—-) claims Naples, also, as his native place, where he studied the piano with his father and composition with Sabino Falconi. To the very thorough training in a broad appreciation of tonalities and the art of blending them, which he acquired from the latter, we owe his D minor sonata in four movements, a fascinating scherzo taking the place of the heretofore most frequently used menuet. The reader should remember that the modern sonata is a development of the seventeenth century suite. Contrast in character of movements, grave alternating with gay, brisk with stately, has continued to the present day, with a growing tendency to omit as an essential number in a series of movements the menuet, the last remaining link which shows the derivation of the movements of the sonata from the dance measures. It is but fair to add that Friedrich Spiro declares in his little "History of Music," which made quite a stir when first issued (1907), that the suite had its origin in the dance, but not the symphony or the sonata. On the demise of Thomas Wingham in 1893, Carlo Albanesi was appointed professor at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Some preludes and other small pieces of his would appeal with their color to ambitious players.
Giovanni Sgambati (1843—-), the Roman composer and pianist, studied first with Barbieri and Natalucci; afterwards he became a favorite pupil of Liszt, which accounts for his immense facility of execution, exquisite touch and dignified, unaffected style. Possibly his ardent admiration for Wagner had its influence on his orchestral compositions, but in the piano works one cannot fail recognizing the master hand of Liszt. A big thing is the Prelude and Fugue, Op. 6, dedicated to his friend and patron, Baron de Keudell; so is the Toccata, Op. 18, No. 4. The Suite, Op. 21, with the contrasting forms of a prelude, valse, air, intermezzo and etude melodique, is an art work, but only for artists to play, that common mortals may admire. Within reach of the latter are the Fogli Volanti, Op. 12. Ferrucio Benvenuto Busoni (1866—-) may be called a Florentine, for he comes from the little village of Empoli, just six miles from that great, old city of Florence, which, in 1498, burned at the stake its great preacher, the Prior of San Marco, Savonarola. Busoni's first teacher was his mother; later it was Wilhelm Mayer, a Bohemian, who preferred to write himself W. A. Remy. In 1891 Busoni came to the United States, and became connected with the New England Conservatory of Boston. Unfortunately for all parties concerned, he was not understood nor appreciated, notwithstanding the fact that his art is that of a piano virtuoso of high rank, and that of a teacher of no small ability. A couple of years later Busoni returned to Europe, since when he has been doing extensive concert work, and has written some excellent things for the piano, but, above all, having prepared an incomparable edition of different works by John Sebastian Bach.
Of prominence in their own country, and esteemed as musicians who have interesting things to say, and wherever their compositions find their way, are Francesco Simonetti (1842-1904), Giuseppe Buonamici 1846—-), Marco Enrico Bossi (1861—-), Nicolo van Westerhout (1862-1898) and many, many others whose names are here omitted because of the impossibility to include every name of prominence in so limited a space.

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