music of the week – Joseph Wölfl: Adagio from Sonata in C minor Op. 25, Sonate précédée d’une introduction & fugue

by ada

Today’s composer is another short-lived wunderkind of Salzburg with the usual tendency to gambling, the piano virtuoso Joseph Wölfl, who spent his childhood in the same house where Michael Haydn was living at the time, became a pupil of both his and Leopold Mozart, befriended the son of the latter, Wolfgang Amadeus, whom he accompanied on his travels to Prague, and at the age of 25 he tried to fight the then 28 years old Beethoven in a piano duel  (unsuccessfully, though). During his short life of 39 years he performed and taught in addition to Vienna also in Warsaw, Paris and London.

His work, which consists mostly of sonatas, concertos and chamber music for the fortepiano, is typical for the early Romantic period, an era of instrumental virtuosi and geniuses, of chamber concerts and duels held in the living-rooms of rich bourgeois families, and of compositions usually including the words “grande” or “brillante” in their titles. This was also the era when the roots of musical canonisation (whose consequences I with real passion hate, but that’s a  theme for another post I most likely will never write) started to being formed; and this very process of creating the phenomenon we now call “classical music”*, has passed Joseph Wölfl gently by.

* it’s not the Classical period I mean here but the music that average people consider as “classical music”, also everything that is written by people owning musical education and is performed on orchestral instruments. So, the opposite of “popular music” which is written and performed by mostly non-musicians, haha.

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