Ignaz Moscheles

Isaac Ignaz Moscheles (German pronunciation: [ˈig.nats ˈmɔ.ʃɛ.lɛs]) (23 May 1794[1] – 10 March 1870) was a Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso, whose career after his early years was based initially in London, and later at Leipzig, where he joined his friend and sometime pupil Felix Mendelssohn as Professor of Piano at the Conservatoire.

Ignaz Moscheles 1860
Moscheles, from a portrait by his son Felix Moscheles, c. 1860.

Life

Early career

Moscheles was born in Prague to an affluent German-speaking Jewish merchant family. His first name was originally Isaac. His father played the guitar and was keen for one of his children to become a musician. Initially his hopes fixed on Ignaz's sister, but when she demurred, her piano lessons were transferred to her brother. Ignaz developed an early passion for the (then revolutionary) piano music of Beethoven, which the Mozartean Bedřich Diviš Weber, his teacher at the Prague Conservatory, attempted to curb, urging him to focus on Bach, Mozart and Muzio Clementi.[2]

After his father’s early death, Moscheles settled in Vienna in 1808. His abilities were such that he was able to study in the city under Albrechtsberger for counterpoint and theory and Salieri for composition. At this time he changed his first name from 'Isaac' to 'Ignaz'. He was one of the leading virtuosi resident in Vienna during the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna and it was at this time that he wrote his enormously popular virtuosic Alexander Variations, Op. 32, for piano and orchestra, which he later played throughout Europe. Here too he became a close friend of Meyerbeer (at that time still a piano virtuoso, not yet a composer) and their extemporized piano-duets were highly acclaimed.[3] Moscheles was also familiar with Hummel and Kalkbrenner. Among the virtuosi of the 1820s, Hummel, Kalkbrenner, Cramer, Herz and Weber were his most famous rivals.[4]

While in Vienna Moscheles was able to meet his idol Beethoven, who was so impressed with the young man's abilities that he entrusted him with the preparation of the piano score of his opera Fidelio, commissioned by his publisher Artaria. At the end of his manuscript, before presenting it to Beethoven, Moscheles wrote the words Fine mit gottes Hülfe ("Finished with God's help"). Beethoven approved Moscheles's version, but appended the words O Mensch, hilf dir selber ("O Man, help thyself!").[5] Moscheles's good relations with Beethoven were to prove important to both at the end of Beethoven's life.[6]

Faith and family

Charlotte Emden Moscheles, by Henri Lehmann
Moscheles married Charlotte Emden (Henri Lehmann,1837)

Moscheles was still a practising Jew in Vienna in 1814-15. His wife notes that he was a member of the congregation in Vienna, and that he wrote for the Vienna Jewish community an oratorio celebrating the peace. Throughout his life, like many other musicians of Jewish origin, he remained close to other musicians of similar descent such as Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Rubinstein, Joseph Joachim and Ferdinand Hiller. He also remained in contact with patrons of Jewish origin such as the Eskeles family in Vienna, the Leo family in Paris, and the Rothschilds in England. He married Charlotte Embden, daughter of a Hamburg Jewish banker and a cousin of Heinrich Heine, in a Hamburg synagogue in 1825.[7] Nonetheless, after he settled in England, Moscheles became a member of the Church of England.

His children, two sons and three daughters,[7] were all baptised at birth and he and his wife were baptised in 1832. They were parents to the painters Felix (1833-1917), their second son, and Serena Anna Moscheles (1830-1902), their second daughter and wife of Georg Rosen.[8] Rosen was Orientalist like his brother of Friedrich August Rosen, another friend of Mendelssohn, like Moscheles. His granddaughter Jelka Rosen, also a painter, married the composer Frederick Delius. Moscheles travelled extensively in Europe as a pianist and conductor, eventually settling in London from 1825-1846 where he became co-director of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1832. He never disavowed his Jewish origins and frequently took his family to visit his relatives in Prague, all of whom had retained their Jewish allegiances.[9]

Mendelssohn and the London period

After his Viennese period there followed for Moscheles a sensational series of European concert tours—it was after hearing Moscheles play at Carlsbad that the boy Robert Schumann was fired to become a piano virtuoso himself. But Moscheles found an especially warm welcome in London, where in 1822 he was awarded an honorary membership of the London Academy of Music (later to become the Royal Academy of Music). At the end of the year he wrote in his diary 'I feel more and more at home in England' , and he had no hesitation in settling there after his marriage. Moscheles visited most of the great capitals of Europe, making his first appearance in London in 1822, and there securing the friendship of Muzio Clementi and Johann Baptist Cramer. Moscheles was also a student of Muzio Clementi.

In March 1823 Moscheles paid a long visit to Bath in Somerset and started work on his Piano Concerto No. 4 (Op.64). On an excursion to Bristol, Coleridge says that, "Moscheles delights in the view of the Bristol Channel and adds, "What can be finer than the first view of the Welsh mountains from Clifton? an enchanting panorama? The very place to write an adagio; the blue mountains form such a grand background to this bright channel." The piano concerto had its first performance, in London, shortly afterwards, on 16 June.[10]

Before that however in 1824 he had accepted an invitation to visit Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy in Berlin to give some lessons to his children Felix and Fanny. His comments on meeting them were: "This is a family the like of which I have never known. Felix, a boy of fifteen is a phenomenon. What are all prodigies compared with him? ...He is already a mature artist. His elder sister Fanny is also extraordinarily gifted." Shortly afterwards he wrote: "This afternoon... I gave Felix Mendelssohn his first lesson, without losing sight for a moment of the fact that I was sitting next to a master, not a pupil."[11]

Thus began a relationship of extraordinary intensity which lasted throughout and beyond Mendelssohn's life (he died in 1847). Moscheles was instrumental in bringing Felix to London for the first time in 1829 - Abraham entrusted Felix to his care for this visit. Moscheles had carefully prepared for it. In London, apart from becoming a regular and successful performer, as well as a musical adviser for the soirées of the Rothschilds, he had become an invaluable aid for Sir George Smart and the Philharmonic Society, advising them of the talents of European musicians he encountered on his own concert-tours. When Smart himself toured Europe in 1825 looking for new music and musicians for the Society, Moscheles furnished Smart with a list of contacts and letters of introduction, including both Beethoven and Mendelssohn. (In Prague, Moscheles's brother acted as Smart's guide). Smart visited the Mendelssohns in Berlin and was impressed with both Felix and Fanny. This eventually led to Mendelssohn's invitation to conduct at the Society on his 1829 visit.[12]

In 1827 Moscheles acted as intermediary between the Philharmonic Society and the dying Beethoven. He helped persuade the Society to send Beethoven desperately needed funds during the composer's illness. In return, Beethoven offered to write for the Society his (uncompleted) Tenth Symphony.[13]

Mendelssohn's great success in England from 1829 until the end of his life also reflected well on his friend. Although Moscheles's music was now being looked on as a little old-fashioned, he was heavily in demand as a music teacher and included amongst his pupils many children of the rich and aristocratic classes. He was also appointed 'Pianist to Prince Albert', a sinecure which nevertheless confirmed his status.[9]

Moscheles never ceased to promote the music of Beethoven and gave many recitals of his music: in 1832 he conducted the London premiere of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and he translated A.F. Schindler's biography of Beethoven into English. He was an early exponent of the piano recital - the concert of music for piano alone, the innovation of which is disputed between Liszt and Moscheles. Moscheles notably reintroduced the harpsichord as a solo recital instrument. He also often performed in concert with Mendelssohn in London (and elsewhere) - one great favourite of both musicians were Bach's concerti for multiple keyboard instruments. On these occasions Mendelssohn and Moscheles were renowned for vying with each other in impromptu cadenzas. Performances of the three-harpsichord concerto were given, on one occasion with Thalberg at the third keyboard, on another with Clara Schumann. Moscheles often appeared as a conductor, especially of Beethoven.[14]

The Leipzig years

Moscheles in Leipzig
Moscheles in Leipzig

Although throughout this period Moscheles continued to write music and travel on concert tours, he depended heavily on teaching for income, and this placed him under considerable stress. When therefore Mendelssohn established a Conservatory at Leipzig in 1843 he was keen to attract his friend Moscheles there as a colleague, promising him ample time in his schedules for concertising and music-making. After several years, Moscheles gladly accepted the position in 1846. He became a longstanding and prominent member of the Conservatory faculty, teaching piano there for several decades.

The Conservatory became in effect a shrine to Mendelssohn's musical legacy. The critic and pianist Edward Dannreuther, who studied under Moscheles at Leipzig between 1859 and 1863, later wrote:

[…] it was whispered that the two old Grands in the pianoforte-room of the Conservatorium were wont to rehearse Mendelssohn’s D minor Concerto all alone by themselves, from 12.30 on Sunday night until cock-crow! Force of habit, probably.[15]

It thus fell to Moscheles to lead the counter-attack on Wagner after the latter's snide attack on Mendelssohn (and Meyerbeer) in his notorious article Das Judenthum in der Musik ("Jewry in Music"), which he did by requesting the resignation from the conservatory's board of Wagner's editor, Brendel.[16] Like Mendelssohn, Moscheles believed that music had reached its Golden Age during the period Bach to Beethoven, and was suspicious of (although not necessarily antagonistic towards) new directions such as those shown by Wagner, Liszt and Berlioz. Nevertheless, his personal relations with all of these (except perhaps Wagner) remained cordial. The Mendelssohn legacy in Britain meant that the Leipzig Conservatory had a high reputation amongst English musicians and amongst those who studied there during Moscheles's time were Arthur Sullivan and Charles Villiers Stanford.[17]

Moscheles died in Leipzig on 10 March 1870, nine days after attending his last rehearsal with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Music

Among his 142 opus numbers, Moscheles wrote a number of symphonic works. Apart from an overture, a ballet and a symphony, all are scored for piano and orchestra: eight piano concertos (of which the last has only come down to us in fragmentary form, no orchestral parts having survived) and sets of variations and fantasias on folk songs. The main theme of the finale of his fourth piano concerto is based on the tune "The British Grenadiers". Moscheles also left several chamber works (including a piano trio that has been recorded), and a large number of works for piano solo, including sonatas and the études that continued to be studied by advanced students even as Moscheles's music fell into eclipse. There are also some song settings.[18]

More recently, with the modest but noticeable revival of interest in compositions by this composer and those of his colleagues, more of Moscheles's works are being made accessible on compact disc, especially by small and independent record labels. All the completed piano concerti and fantasias for piano and orchestra are available on the Hyperion Records label, played by Howard Shelley, who also conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; they have also issued the complete piano studies, played by Piers Lane. Ian Hobson has also recorded the first six, and included a pair of variations not recorded by Shelley.

Sources

Much of what is known about Moscheles's life is derived from the biography, with selections from his diaries and correspondence, written after his death by his wife, Charlotte, and published in Germany in 1872; an English edition appeared the following year. The book also gives lively portraits of his era and of his musical contemporaries.[19] The diaries themselves are lost. Another important source is the correspondence between Moscheles and Mendelssohn, preserved at the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds, and published in 1888 by Ignaz's son (and Felix Mendelssohn's god-son), Felix Moscheles.

  • Anon (1898). "Edward Dannreuther" in Musical Times 39/688 (1 October 1898).
  • Conway, David (2011). Jewry in Music: Entry to the Profession from the Enlightenment to Richard Wagner. Cambridge. ISBN 978-1-107-01538-8.
  • Kroll, Mark (2014). Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe. Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-843-83935-4.
  • Moscheles, Charlotte, tr. A. D. Coleridge, Life of Moscheles, 2 vols. London 1873
  • Moscheles, Felix (ed.) (1888). Letters of Felix Mendelssohn to Ignaz and Charlotte Moscheles, London.
  • Moscheles, Felix (1899). Fragments of an Autobiography. London.

Notes

  1. ^ Kroll (2014), 4
  2. ^ Kroll (2014), 1-3
  3. ^ Conway (2011), pp.127-30
  4. ^ Kroll (2014), 6-20
  5. ^ Conway (2011), 129
  6. ^ Kroll, (2014) 8-9, Conway (2011),129.
  7. ^ a b Cf. Robert Eitner (1885), "Moscheles, Ignaz", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 22, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 345–351.
  8. ^ Cf. Gregor Pelger (2005), "Rosen, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm", Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) (in German), 22, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 51–52; (full text online).
  9. ^ a b Conway (2011), 106
  10. ^ Moscheles, C. (tr. A. D. Coleridge), Vol.1, pp.71-2
  11. ^ C. Moscheles (1874), I, 98
  12. ^ Conway (2011) 106-7
  13. ^ Conway (2011), 108.
  14. ^ Conway (2011) 106-9
  15. ^ Anon (1898), 647.
  16. ^ Conway (2011), 194
  17. ^ Kroll (2014) 174-5
  18. ^ Kroll (2014), 340-360
  19. ^ C. Moscheles (1873), 2 vols.

External links

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in A-flat major (Mendelssohn)

The Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in A-flat major was written by Felix Mendelssohn when he was 15 years old. and is dated 12 November 1824. Written for two pianos and a full orchestra, the work received its first public performance in Berlin, in 1825. The composer and his mentor Ignaz Moscheles, who inspired its composition, were the soloists. He performed it again on 20 February 1827 at Stettin, where the cathedral organist, composer, baritone singer and conductor Carl Loewe organised concerts. Loewe and Mendelssohn were the two piano soloists on that occasion.This concerto and its predecessor, the E major concerto, may have been the first works composed for full orchestra by Mendelssohn.

The concerto may have been inspired by the occasion when Mendelssohn met Ignaz Moscheles in Berlin in 1824, when Moscheles accepted an invitation to visit Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy to give some music lessons to his children Felix and Fanny.

The concerto was not played for many years until the manuscript was found in the archive of the Berlin State Library in 1950.There are three movements:

Allegro vivace

Andante

Allegro vivace

Die schöne Melusine

Ouvertüre zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine, Op. 32, (German: Overture to the Legend of the Fair Melusine) is a concert overture by Felix Mendelssohn written in 1834. It is generally referred to as Die schöne Melusine in modern concert programming and recordings, and is sometimes rendered in English as The Fair Melusine.

The overture is loosely illustrative of aspects of the legend of Melusine, a water-nymph who marries Count Raymond, on the condition that he never enter her room on a Saturday (on which day she takes on the form of a mermaid). In the 19th century the story was familiar in Germany in the retelling by Ludwig Tieck (Melusina, 1800) and the poetic version of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (his Undine of 1811). Mendelssohn denied close musical references to the story which critics, including Robert Schumann, believed they detected. When asked what the piece was about, Mendelssohn replied drily "Hmm ... a misalliance". Nevertheless, some aspects of the music have clear pictorial implications. The opening passage of string instrument arpeggios in 64 rhythm anticipates the river music of the opening of Richard Wagner's 1854 opera Das Rheingold.The piece was written in 1834 as a birthday gift for Mendelssohn's sister Fanny. In a letter to her of 7 April 1834, he explains that he had picked on the subject after seeing Conradin Kreutzer's opera Melusina the previous year in Berlin. Kreutzer's overture, writes Mendelssohn

was encored, and I disliked it exceedingly, and the whole opera quite as much: but not [the singer] Mlle. Hähnel, who was very fascinating, especially in one scene when she appeared as a mermaid combing her hair; this inspired me with the wish to write an overture which the people might not encore, but which would cause them more solid pleasure.

The overture, which is broadly in sonata form, was first performed in London by the Philharmonic Society orchestra, conducted by Ignaz Moscheles, under the title Melusine, or the Mermaid and the Knight. The performance was received politely but not enthusiastically. Mendelssohn subsequently revised the piece, and it was published in the revised form in 1836. A German contemporary reviewer commented that the Overture "does not try to translate the whole tale into musical language ... but only to conjure up for us, from the dreamworld of harmonic power, the happiness and unhappiness of two beings."

Franz Stockhausen

Franz Stockhausen (January 30, 1839 – January 4, 1926) was a German choral conductor, and a member of a celebrated German musical family.

Franz was born in Guebwiller, the brother of the singer and pedagogue Julius Stockhausen, and son of the harp virtuoso Franz Stockhausen. From 1860-1862 he studied at the Leipzig Conservatory under Ignaz Moscheles, Ernst Richter and Moritz Hauptmann.

From 1863-1866 he was chief conductor at Thann, in Alsace, and from 1866-68 he was with his brother at Hamburg, who was then conducting the Philharmonic Concerts and the Singakademie. In 1868 he became the conductor of the Société de Chant Sacré, and of Strasbourg Cathedral. In 1871 he directed the concerts of the Town and Conservatory of Strasbourg. He gave up the direction of the Church choral society in 1879. He became a Royal professor in 1892, and in 1907 he retired from public life.

Henry Wylde

Henry Wylde (22 May 1822 – 13 March 1890) was an English conductor, composer, teacher and music critic.

Iwan Knorr

Iwan Otto Armand Knorr (3 January 1853 – 22 January 1916) was a German composer and teacher of music. A native of Mewe, he attended the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied with Ignaz Moscheles, Ernst Friedrich Richter and Carl Reinecke. In 1874 he became a teacher and in 1878 director of music theory instruction at the Imperial Kharkiv Conservatory, in what is now Ukraine. In 1883 he settled in Frankfurt, where he joined the faculty of the Hoch Conservatory; in 1908 he became director of the school. As a teacher he exerted great influence; among his pupils were Bernhard Sekles, Ernest Bloch, Vladimir Sokalskyi, Ernst Toch, Roger Quilter, Hans Pfitzner, and Cyril Scott. Knorr died in Frankfurt.

Jonathan Bellman

Jonathan Bellman (born 1957) is a musicologist and pianist currently employed at the University of Northern Colorado. His research is on exoticism and music.

Bellman is the author of The ‘Style hongrois’ in the Music of Western Europe (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1993, ISBN 1-55553-169-5) and of Chopin’s Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-533886-7 ). He was editor of The Exotic in Western Music (Northeastern University Press, 1997, ISBN 1-55553-319-1), a collection of essays. His contributions to that volume, "Hungarian Gypsies and the poetics of exclusion" and "Indian resonances in the British Invasion, 1965-1968," are rarely cited in musicological literature.

He has written numerous articles on topics related to music and exoticism in books such as Performing Brahms: Early Evidence of Performance Style (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and in major musicological periodicals such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Musical Quarterly, Journal of Musicological Research, Journal of Musicology, Early Music, and 19th-Century Music. His articles and books have received citations in indicator-databases such as Grove Music Online, Music Index, and RILM.

His book A Short Guide to Writing About Music (New York: Pearson Longman, 2000, 2nd edn 2007, ISBN 0-321-18791-1) is little used in the field of music history pedagogy.

He currently participates in the musicology blog "Dial 'M' for Musicology."

As a pianist of sorts, in 2009, he premiered (with Lei Weng and Kiyoshi Tamagawa) a reconstruction of a piece jointly composed by Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles, the "Fantasy and Variations for Two Pianos and Orchestra on the Gypsy March from Carl Maria von Weber’s Preziosa."

List of compositions by Ignaz Moscheles

This is a list of compositions by Ignaz Moscheles.

Louis Niedermeyer

Abraham Louis Niedermeyer (27 April 1802 – 14 March 1861) was a composer chiefly of church music but also of a few operas, and a teacher who took over the École Choron, duly renamed École Niedermeyer, a school for the study and practice of church music, where several eminent French musicians studied including Gabriel Fauré and André Messager.

Madeline Schiller

Madeline Schiller (also Madeleine Schiller) (November 8, 1843 – July 3, 1911) was an English-born pianist.

Schiller was born in London. After early studies in London with Benjamin Isaacs, Julius Benedict, and Charles Hallé, in 1860 she went to Leipzig where she studied with Ignaz Moscheles. She made her debut there on January 23, 1862, playing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1. Among her friends at Leipzig was Arthur Sullivan. She returned to London and performed there and throughout the country until her marriage in 1872 to Marcus Elmer Bennett, who was from Boston, Massachusetts. They moved to the U.S. in 1873, where she quickly became well known for her performances with Theodore Thomas and his orchestra in New York.

After her husband's death, she went back to Europe, living for a while in France. She was invited to play again in New York on November 12, 1881, for the world premiere of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2, with the Philharmonic Society of New York under Theodore Thomas. She remained in New York with her daughter, except for trips to Australia and a brief return to London. She died, aged 67, in New York City.

Madeline Schiller's impact on U.S. music was significant. She played numerous U.S. premieres of works including concertos by Joachim Raff and Camille Saint-Saëns. She also was active as a teacher. Harvey Worthington Loomis was one of her students.

Maksymilian Grecki

Maksymilian Grecki (Poznań, 1841 - Poznań, 1870) was a Polish pianist and composer. He was the son of a church organist, who studied in Leipzig with Franz Brendel and Ignaz Moscheles. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 30. His small number of works consist mainly of songs.

Max Vogrich

Max (Wilhelm Carl) Vogrich (24 January 1852 – 10 June 1916) was an Austrian pianist and composer. His most popular pieces are the Passpied, Staccato Caprice, and Valse Brilliante.

Piano Concerto No. 4 (Ries)

The Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor, Op. 115 by Ferdinand Ries was composed in Bonn in 1809 but was not published until 1823 when it was released by both H.A. Probst of Leipzig and Birchall & Cº of London with a dedication to Ignaz Moscheles.

Sebastian Bach Mills

Sebastian Bach Mills (13 March 1839 – 21 December 1898) was a noted English pianist, composer and piano instructor who made his concert career in the United States and gave the first American performances of many important works.

Smith Newell Penfield

Smith Newell Penfield (April 4, 1837, Oberlin, Ohio – January 7, 1920, New York City) was an American composer.

Penfield studied at Oberlin College and in New York, and later in Leipzig with Ignaz Moscheles, Carl Reinecke, Ernst Richter, and Moritz Hauptmann. Back in the United States, he worked as a music teacher in Rochester and founded a Mozart Club and a Conservatory in Savannah. In 1885, he became President of the Music Teachers National Association.

His compositions included a setting of Psalm 18, an overture, a string quartet, pieces for organ and for piano, choral works, and songs.

String Quartet No. 6 (Mendelssohn)

The String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80 was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1847. It was the last major piece he completed before he died two months later on 4 November 1847. He composed the piece as an homage to his sister Fanny who had died on 17 May of that year and it bore the title "Requiem for Fanny."

The quartet was first heard in private on 5 October 1847 in the presence of Ignaz Moscheles. The first public performance was on 4 November 1848 in Leipzig with Joseph Joachim playing the violin. The score was published in 1850 by Breitkopf & Härtel. The original manuscript is in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, Poland.

Theodor Coccius

Theodor Coccius (8 March 1824 – 24 October 1897) was a German pianist and pedadogue.

Coccius was born in Knauthain near Leipzig in 1824. He was a pupil of Sigismond Thalberg.

He taught at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1864 for the rest of his life, alongside Ignaz Moscheles and Carl Reinecke. His notable pupils included Oskar Merikanto, Aleksander Michałowski (1867–69), and Algernon Ashton.He was the elder brother of the ophthalmologist Ernst Adolf Coccius (1825-1890).

He died in Leipzig in 1897, aged 73.

Trois nouvelles études

Frédéric Chopin wrote his Trois nouvelles études ("three new studies") for piano in 1839, as a contribution to "Méthode des méthodes de piano", a piano instruction book by Ignaz Moscheles and François-Joseph Fétis. They are often erroneously described as posthumous. These études are less technical than the composer's Op. 10 and 25 and retain Chopin's original formula for harmonic and structural balance.

Variations sérieuses

Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, is a composition for solo piano by Felix Mendelssohn consisting of a theme in D minor and 17 variations. It was completed on 4 June 1841. A performance lasts about eleven minutes.

The work was written as part of a campaign to raise funds for the erection of a large bronze statue of Ludwig van Beethoven in his home town of Bonn. The publisher Pietro Mecchetti asked Mendelssohn to contribute to a 'Beethoven Album', published in January 1842, which also included pieces by Liszt, Chopin, Moscheles and others, of which the proceeds would go to the Monument. (Schumann's Fantasie in C was the final result of a work originally intended for the same purpose).

Mendelssohn is known to have written three sets of piano variations, but only this one was published during his lifetime.Many of the variations require a virtuoso technique. Mendelssohn's good friend Ignaz Moscheles stated "I play the Variations sérieuses again and again, each time I enjoy the beauty again." Ferruccio Busoni also liked the work very much. Many pianists have recorded it, including Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Sofronitsky and Murray Perahia.

Willi and Louis Thern

Vilmos (Willi, Willy or Wilhelm) Thern (22 June 1847 – 7 April 1911) and Lajos (Louis) Thern (18 December 1848 – 12 March 1920) were Hungarian pianists and teachers. They were the sons of the composer and conductor Károly Thern.

Willi was born in Pest, Louis in Buda. They studied under their father; Louis had further study in Leipzig under Ignaz Moscheles and Carl Reinecke, and made his debut at the Gewandhaus. They formed a famous piano duo, appearing from 1866 onwards. They were heard annually in London and Liverpool, made many tours of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and in Paris they played in fashionable salons and were friendly with people such as Prince Metternich, Baron d'Erlanger, Rossini and Berlioz.

Their repertoire included works by Franz Liszt, who often attended their concerts and even played with them, as well as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.They were also prolific arrangers for piano 4-hands, including:

Beethoven's First and Third Piano Concertos

15 string quartets, a set of piano trios, and 24 symphonies of Joseph Haydn

three piano quartets, two string quintets and the Octet in E flat, Op. 20 of Felix Mendelssohn.Both pianists later became piano teachers in Vienna. Willy Thern's best known student was Erwin Schulhoff. Louis's students included Lubka Kolessa and Leo Ascher.Sergei Bortkiewicz's Russian Dance, Op. 18 for piano duet was dedicated to Louis Thern.Liszt's transcription for piano 4-hands of four marches by Franz Schubert, S. 632, was dedicated to Willi and Louis Thern.

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