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Thalberg Fantasy on Mosè in Egitto

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by andrew, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thalberg's fantasy on Rossini's "Mosè in Egitto" forms a largely forgotten, but significant, footnote in musical history. Thalberg had arrived in Paris in 1835, his piano-playing receiving rave reviews, just as Liszt had left to elope to Geneva with the Countess d'Agoult. Over the next year and a half, the initial speculative comparisons grew and were encouraged in the press, principally by Berlioz (backing Liszt) and Fetis (backing Thalberg). Eventually both performers agreed to appear on the same stage, the event being publicly perceived as a "piano duel". This composition was one of the two pieces performed by Thalberg.

    This is a live recording from a recital in 2009. I'm not totally happy with the first half where there were some rough passages. It is a demanding paraphrase in the grand style, and I would dearly like the luxury of an editing studio! I'm much happier with the second half (from about 8 mins on). This is in effect a theme and variations on Moses' prayer "Dal tuo stellato soglio", and I've taken to playing it on its own as an encore piece. It's not common to ascribe much in the way of compositional kudos to Thalberg, but I personally think the variations are very cleverly written.

    I hope this comparative rarity is of interest.

    Rossini-Thalberg - Fantasy on 'Mosè in Egitto'
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    For the style it represents, it is a fine example, and your playing is impressive. I just checked, and in only 10 days it will be the 191st anniversary of the opera's premiere (5 March 1818). By virtue of Thalberg, we should have Rossini represented here with this work (if not today, then in 10 days or it will have to wait 9 years until the 200th anniversary :mrgreen: ). Thanks Andrew!
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is up, Andrew. Sounded good to me! :)
     
  4. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    Definitely! It's nice to see this style of pianism coming back into fashion, and interesting to compare Thalberg's style with Liszt's.

    I think this at least partly reflects the weakness of the composition itself. This sort of piece can be a bit "waffly", and the first half doesn't have any clear structure. It's because of such issues that Liszt's work has remained mainstream while Thalberg and others are a little obscure (but certainly worth playing from time to time).

    Regarding the performance itself: you're getting through an impresive quantity of notes, and it's mostly accurate and cohererent. I'd like to hear still more emphasis on the melodic lines, and the accompanying figures more in the background.

    By the way, do you know if these scores are still in print anywhere? I know that they can be obtained from the IMSLP web site (there are quite a few Thalberg works there), but I've never seen them elsewhere.
     
  5. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I absolutely agree. The first half is a bit "pick and mix" and I've never been convinced by it from a compositional perspective. Liszt was certainly better at tieing together unrelated material in a coherent form.

    The repeated note variation is probably the hardest for keeping the accompaniment quiet (and correspondingly the least successful in that respect in my recording!). There's a flub in the second page of the theme and variations, during the right hand scales in thirds, where the melody gets lost.

    I ordered my copy from Musica Obscura in America (they have quite a lot of material of this ilk, e.g. Tausig, the Alkan transcription of Beethoven 3, etc). However you have to bear in mind that in return for the cost plus shipping, all you're really getting is the IMSLP sheets stapled together within a yellow cover; it's the exact same edition. I can't actually find a website for them, but this: http://www.burtnco.com/Home/tabid/62/Ca ... ductName#a should give you access to their catalogue should you wish to look further.

    Thanks for taking the time to listen and comment.
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    I totally enjoyed listening to this transcription. In my opinion your playing was fabulous. Thalberg has been served very well by your artistry in this rendition, and I congratulate you on this enormous accomplishment!

    David
     
  7. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, David. I have slight reservations about the performance. I think it's difficult to bring off the first half completely successfully and I think my tempo is a touch too fast in some sections where I would like a little more caprice and indulgence. The piece is one of a rare collection of 19th century pianistic behemoths - even Liszt didn't write many operatic transcriptions on this scale. I'm hoping to re-record this, but without the pressure of it being a concert performance; as it is I don't expect to get through it "in concert" quite as cleanly as I would like.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    First, despite some maybe less-than optimal passagework, this is a very splendid performance. IMHO this is a rambling and unconvincing piece, end the actual tunes are not so hot either. Except the one starting at 8:40 - where have I heard that before ? Didn't Liszt do something with that too ? Or did Verdi nick this tune for one of his own operas ?

    I can't at all relate this piece to ole Moses heroically struggling to save his people from slavery and heathendom. Here, it sounds like he is rather aimlessly wandering along in the Egyptian sand. Not your fault, you make the most of it. Kudos on spending so much effort, care, and enthousiasm on such a rag-bag :)

    On the subject of operatic fantasies, do you know Ronald Stevenson's Fantasy on Britten's Peter Grimes ? Could be just the thing thing for you, if you'd consider extending your specialty beyond the 19th century. I love this one, but haven't got very far with it yet because of other priorities.
     
  9. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have to agree about the rambling (and the less-than optimal passagework :oops: ). The second half makes so much more sense than the first - this section is imo well written. This was the very first Thalberg virtuoso paraphrase I learnt, perhaps understandably as it's the most (in)famous. Many of them are not especially distinguished; for anyone wishing to look further I would recommend his offerings on Don Pasquale (Earl Wild rec.) La Sonnambula and La traviata (Francesco Nicolosi recs.) in preference to this. The tune in from 8.40 is Moses' prayer (very famous in its time); Liszt didn't paraphrase it, but some of Liszt and Thalberg's contemporaries did, perhaps most famously Paganini for violin/cello and Parish-Alvars for harp.

    I'm not familiar with Ronald Stevenson's fantasy on Peter Grimes; I do have a copy of his Fledermaus paraphrase which I've not got round to looking at properly.
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah yes, Paganini, now I remember where I heard it :!: Just the kind of tune for him :p

    There's a very good performance on YouTube (doesn't say by whom), and the score on Hawley's site. Highly recommended, provided you like Britten :wink:
     
  11. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew, I really enjoyed your masterful playing, even though I cannot be totally warm to this piece itself, as many said before. Now I wonder which points in a transcription you usually consider as you choose the pieces for playing. Like: Are you a big opera lover, so you play the transcriptions of your favorite operas?
     
  12. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    It's not easy to say how I select transcriptions! I'm not a big opera fan, but often I like specific arias. Transcriptions are often "selected highlights" and represent the best parts of the opera. Rossini on Wagner springs to mind "Wagner has great moments.. and terrible quarter hours". Sometimes I like pianistic or sonic aspects of the transcription and it's fun to play and learn; on other occasions I'll select one because it presents interesting technical challenges. Not being a career professional musician, the one luxury I do have is that I don't play music that I don't believe in (having said that, I do share the reservations expressed about the first half of this piece). When I'm playing a concert of them (I've done quite a few transcriptions-only concerts now) I try to arrange them broadly in a fast/slow/fast grouping; you can't have bang, bang, bang all the time as I'll get tired, and so will the audience! Finding effective slower transcriptions (at least in the operatic field) is not always straightforward.
     
  13. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    How true! I know that you've played the Liebestod (Wagner-Liszt). Have you also looked at Elsa's Dream from Lohengrin (also transcribed by Liszt)?
     
  14. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I have. I wasn't very convinced by the first page if I'm going to be honest. I think it can be difficult to translate Wagner's textures effectively; I remember turning up a Tausig arrangement which I thought worth a look. By coincidence I was playing through the Liszt Abendstern from Tannhauser this morning (which I do like).
     
  15. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    (Re Elsa's Dream):
    Indeed. It was a piece I underestimated at first, but someone persuaded me to take a second look and it grew on me...
     
  16. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'll bear that in mind. I like the second and third pages, but thought the first page was too thin.
     
  17. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you for sharing your opinion, Andrew.
    It's guessable from your choices with which we got acquainted through your postings :) My favorite transcriptions are in most cases those from my favorite pieces written for other instruments or instrumentations. Maybe this resulted partly from the fact that I'm not so virtuosic as you :roll:
    Totally agreed :lol:
     

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