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Ignaz Moscheles Gran Duo Les Contrastes op. 115

Andante con moto, ma ben accentuato
Allegro maestoso (fuga)
Andante religioso
Allegretto siciliano

'From Biedermeier to the early 20th Century'. Austria, Vienna, the Restoration, the 'Metternich system', the so-called Biedermeirzeit years (1815-1848): it was within these geographic and historic coordinates that Ignaz Moscheles spent the formative years of his career, which subsequently brought him to the forefront throughout Europe as a piano virtuoso, conductor, composer and teacher. On moving to the Hapsburg capital in 1808 Moscheles was just fourteen years old. He stayed in Vienna for twelve years until 1820, studying under the guidance of Albrechtsberger and Salieri who also taught Beethoven (whom he met). The pianoforte was the undisputed ruler of the rich output of Moschelesí works: his original research on the instrumentís technical potential followed the directrix which ranged from Johann Baptist Cramer to Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Friedrich Wilhelm Kalkbrenner and Carl Czerny. The Grand Duo 'Les Contrastes' pour deux pianos à huit mains op. 115 was composed during the final months of the long Viennese stay. Dedicated to Frederick Augustus I King of Saxony, it represents a truly sui generis work. The subtitle Les contrastes derives from the contrast of the first pianoforte (the independent) with the second (the serious). The former preferring refinement and gentleness rather inclined towards affection and self-satisfied amiable cordiality: its apotheosis is rejoiced in the Andante religioso. On the other hand, the latter seeks wider horizons inclined to shades full of pathos and theatrical gestures. Its moment of triumph is the fugue of the Allegro maestoso. The symbolic meaning of this Sonata is important. It is rather a symbol of the interior turmoil of the times: the desire for a peaceful existence typical of Biedermeier in conflict with the tension and dreamy Titanism of the Romantic spirit. And in both the Andante con moto (a succession of thematic and expressive contrasts taken to the limit) and the final Allegretto siciliano (pure display, occasionally connected to the rest) appears the allegory of this periodís inability to arrive at an effective synthesis of these two extremes. In fact, the positivist reaction of the second half of the century derived from this failure. 1) It was from 1855-57 that - to indicate the period from the Congress of Vienna to the risings of '48 - the term Biedermeier started being used. It is the surname of a character invented as a joke to pillory the Philistinism of the pre-forty-eight lower middle classes: Weiland Gottlieb Biedermeier, the school teacher, i.e. the law-abiding citizen, lover of peace, comfort and quiet and, who, impoverished by wars and heavy taxes, in years of plots and State censorship, made his own home his castle. In furnishing, painting and literature what was diffused in the Austro-Germanic world was not just a style but a genuine Weltanschaung - a philosophy and ethics. Music, Biedermeier's favourite art, returns to the sentimental and colloquial dimension of the galant style.

Angelo Chiarle


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