*** NOTE for our new Opera Lively Readers ***

"Once or Twice a Fortnight" is my contribution to Opera Lively, a semi-regular musing I issue in the forum once or twice a fortnight...

Here is my second of two musings on piano transcriptions of Opera and Lyric music. After Liszt, we now turn to another important pianist-composer of the mid-19th century.

Sigismond Thalberg (1812 –1871) was one of the most distinguished virtuoso pianists of the 19th century, as well as a well-regarded composer in his own right. However, Thalberg is forever linked to Franz Liszt, as they both were touring piano virtuosi in the same time period, often crossing paths, and even playing as part of the same event in a handful of circumstances.

Franz Liszt, who had — until then — regarded himself as Europe's leading piano virtuoso, had heard of Thalberg's successes during the winter 1835-36 in Geneva, in spring 1836 in Lyon, and in Paris. On January 8, 1837, in the Revue et Gazette musicale, a review by Liszt of some of Thalberg's piano works appeared. The editors of the publication added a disclaimer; they would not share Liszt's opinions and were not responsible for it. Liszt claimed that all of Thalberg's music was completely worthless. He lost many friends and made many enemies with this.

After Thalberg arrived in Paris in the beginning of February 1837, a kind of rivalry arosebetween him and Liszt, the admirers of the both pianists were to blame for this or the tickets sellers. However, this didn't reflect on Liszt and Thalberg, as their relationship was always cordial. In his later years Liszt admitted that Thalberg had many more admirers and much more success. According to Liszt, his own playing had been a "Tohuwabohu von Gefühlen" ("a complete chaos of emotions"). There are contemporary reviews from Paris, in which Liszt got the advice to take Thalberg as a model for his own playing.

According to Christine Stevenson in her blog “Notes from a Pianist”, Thalberg and Liszt performed at a benefit concert to raise money for Italian refugees organised by Princess Belgiojoso in her Paris salon, March 31, 1837. Wrote critic Jules Janin in the Journal des Débats:

Never was Liszt more controlled, more thoughtful, more energetic, more passionate; never has Thalberg played with greater verve and tenderness. Each of them prudently stayed within his harmonic domain, but each used every one of his resources. It was an admirable joust. The most profound silence fell over that noble arena. And finally Liszt and Thalberg were both proclaimed victors by this glittering and intelligent assembly… Thus two victors and no vanquished (…)
As did Liszt, Thalberg developed a series of works for his own use that made copious use of known themes from contemporary operas. You will find that where Liszt’s approach is more powerful, agitated and (if you pardon me using those words) more virile, Thalberg is all about the technique, the virtuosity and more feminine in approach, shall we say.

Let me single out a few of therse opera-inspired works. To begin, Casta diva, Cavatine de Norma de Bellini. Pianist Francesco Nicolosi has recorded many of Thalberg's works, including his Piano Concerto. Here he is is one of the many transcriptions from Thtalberg's op. 70 L´art du chant appliqué au piano



Mr. Nicolosi returns with a timely selection - timely because of the ongoing Opera In Depth on this Verdi opera - Fantasia on Verdi`s Il Trovatore Op.77:



More from the op. 70 - Assisa a piè d´un salice, de l´Opéra Otello de Rossini.



More interesting transcriptions by Thalberg are in this YouTube playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC7E1F8DD5FDB9A29

BONUS

In addition, I found a few more pieces adapted by other composers and pianists, as well as a recital by an unidentified YouTube pianist which you might enjoy – some of the selections he plays overlap with our Liszt and Thalberg platlists.

Here are a few of the gems I found:










I tease you… not: 2012 is double anniversary year for one of my favourite musicians, pianist and The Last Puritan, Glenn Gould (he would have turned 80 this year, and passed away 30 years ago). I plan to have a few musings and music montages this year featuring Mr. Gould, and Friday (January 20th), he is featured in solo and concerto music by Beethoven and Arnold Schönberg. Visit “I Think You Will Love Thois Music Too” @ http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/.