Ignaz Moscheles (1794–1870)
Unknown artist, stippled copperplate, 19th c., 237 x 113.
Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/958].
Ignaz Moscheles—German pianist, composer, conductor and pedagogue widely renowned across Europe. Moscheles is currently regarded as the most important pianist of the transitional period begun by the generation that emerged out of classicism (Hummel, Field, Cramer, Kalkbrenner) and was later represented by the young Romantics. Moscheles gained the universal recognition of his peers, who esteemed him as a man and an artist. Chopin played works by Moscheles as early as 1825, as he related from Szafarnia on 26 August: ‘Working on Moscheles’. Moscheles wrote in his notes in 1833: ‘I enjoy playing at free moments in the evening Chopin’s etudes and other of his compositions; I find much charm in their originality and in the national tinge to the motifs, yet my thoughts, and with them my fingers, continually come across certain hard, unartistic modulations which for me are incomprehensible; at times his work as a whole seems to me too mawkish, inappropriate for a man and a trained musician’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, p. 328]. Chopin admired Moscheles’s playing; on hearing him in London, in 1837, he wrote to Auguste Léo: ‘You know how I love and admire Moscheles and will understand better than anyone how I am troubled by my inability to travel forthwith to Paris [to listen to him play]’ [Sydow, ii, 83]. Among the Moscheles works which he valued most, one should mention the Etudes, Op. 70, Nouvelles Grandes Études caractéristiques, Op. 95, and above all the Grande Sonate for 4 hands, Op. 47, which he played many times with different partners, and with the composer himself during a concert at Louis-Philippe’s court in Saint-Cloud, on 29 October 1839.
Moscheles first met Chopin in Paris in 1839, as he wrote to his family: ‘At the Léos’, I finally, unexpectedly, came across Chopin, who had just returned from the country. His outward appearance wholly corresponds to his music, so delicate and dream-like is it. He played at my entreaty and only now do I comprehend his music and the enthusiasm it arouses among the ladies. His ad libitum playing, which in other performers of his works veers into a chaotic lack of beat, is simply bewitching originality. The dilettantishly hard modulations, which still give me pause when I play his compositions, do not grate when he plays them, as his delicate fingers flit through them like the feather-light feet of elves; his piano is so ethereal that he has no need of a powerful forte in order to achieve the necessary contrast, and this means that one has no desire for those orchestral effects which the German school demands of pianists. […] He is unique among pianists. He declared that he likes my music very much; in any case, I see that he knows it perfectly well. He played before me his etudes and his most recent works—the Preludes’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, p. 329]. Moscheles gave a lengthy description of his performance with Chopin at the court of Louis-Philippe in his diary: ‘At 9 in the evening Count Perthuis arrived with his wife to take me and Chopin with him. […] First Chopin sat down at the instrument and performed a few of his etudes and nocturnes. He aroused the admiration of the listeners, who treated him as their darling. Afterwards, when I too had performed a few of my etudes, newer and older, for which I was honoured by such applause as my predecessor, we both sat at the piano. Chopin took the second part, as was always his custom. The rapt attention of the distinguished group of listeners to my E flat major Sonata was broken only by exclamations of delight: – Divine, wonderful. […] Chopin and I were delighted like brothers at our joint triumph, with which the distinctive talent of each of us was crowned and which was not clouded by any rivalry. […] Since then, Chopin and I have had to repeat that sonata at social musical gatherings almost every day. It has become fashionable and been dubbed in short, without additions, La Sonata’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, pp. 330–332]. Chopin composed (1839–1840) for Moscheles’s Méthode des méthodes three etudes, in F minor, A flat major and D flat major, published in Berlin (1840), London (1841) and Paris (1845). After Chopin’s death, Moscheles wrote: ‘With Chopin’s departure, art has lost a great deal: whilst he was not a Classic […], he possessed utterly exceptional qualities: feeling, sensitivity and originality’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, p. 333].