Moscheles, Ignaz



Piano virtuoso and composer of the first rank; was born at Prague of a Jewish family of great refinement and culture. His father, a musical amateur, determined that one of his five children should be a thoroughly trained musician, and accordingly placed his eldest daughter under a piano teacher named Zadrakha. Young Moscheles was usually present at her music lessons and on one occasion showed such impatience at her stupidity that the teacher allowed him to take her place at the piano and was greatly astonished at his proficiency. After that the lessons were given to Moscheles instead of his sister and the result was rapid progress. In 1804 his father took him to Dionys Weber, who said that he had talent and would make a musician if he would follow his directions explicitly. Moscheles became the pupil of Weber and thus was laid the solid foundation of his musicianship. When Moscheles was fourteen years old his father died, leaving the family in very moderate circumstances. It was decided that the young musician's public career should begin and a musical was arranged in Prague at which he played a concerto of his own composition. This venture was so successful that the lad's mother decided to send him to Vienna to continue his studies and to earn his living. On arriving at Vienna he was warmly welcomed in the homes of Baroness Eskeles and the musical publisher Artaria, met Streicher and became a student of theory under Dom - Kapellmeister Albrechtsberger During all this time he earned his living as pianist and teacher. He knew all the prominent musicians in Vienna and often entered into friendly rivalry with Hummel and Meyerbeer, with whom he sometimes improvised, composing several duets in this way. During 1814, Artaria, the publisher, commissioned him to arrange piano scores of Beethoven's Fidelio, which he did under that master's supervision. Early in 1815 he wrote the famous Alexander Variations to be played at a charity concert. In the autumn of 1816 Moscheles started on a professional tour to Leipsic, Dresden, Munich and Augsburg where he wrote his popular concerto in G minor. He then went to Brussels, and the last of the year arrived in Paris. Here he was soon in demand as a teacher and pianist at the homes of the leading families. In May, 1822, he went to London, where he repeated his social and musical success and laid the foundation for his later achievements as a resident musician in that city. He appeared with the Philharmonic Society, playing his E flat concerto and the Alexander Variations. He spent the summer of 1822 in the country with Kalkbrenner, and while there wrote his Allegri di Bravura and a Polonaise in E flat. After a brilliantly successful tour through Normandy with Lafont he returned to Paris and plunged into the social and musical life of that city. After playing at the Concerts Spirituels on Easter Sunday he went to London, arriving just in time to join Cramer in a concert for which as a finale of a sonata of Cramer's he wrote the allegro of his famous Hommage a Handel. Moscheles stayed in England until the summer of 1823 and during this time won for himself an enviable place in the musical world of London. In August of that year he started for home, and after stopping at Paris, Frankfort and Offenbach, where he examined the Mozart manuscript, he arrived at Prague. For four months after this he was very ill, but in May, 1824, was able to inaugurate the Redoutensaal with a concert, and in June appeared before the Emperor. In October he went to Leipsic and from there to Berlin, where he began his friendship with Mendelssohn, which was the most important musical connection of his life. At the repeated request of Mendelssohn's parents he gave him some lessons, although he looked upon him then as a finished artist.


In the middle of December Moscheles reluctantly left the Mendelssohn family at Berlin, and after giving concerts at Potsdam, Magdeburg and Hanover arrived at Hamburg in the beginning of 1825. Here he met Charlotte Embden, to whom he was married in March of that year. The following May they went to London and Moscheles immediately began a busy life of teaching and concert work. Three of his favorite concert pieces during this time were Clair de Lune, Rondo m D major and Recollections of Ireland. In August he went to Hamburg and then to Leipsic, Dresden and to Prague to his sister's wedding, then to Berlin, where they again saw the Mendelssohns. He finished his important Twenty-four Studies in December, 1826, at Hamburg.


The years that followed were busy ones for Moscheles, for he was exceedingly popular as a teacher and concert player,  was constantly at work on compositions and active in the social life of musical London. His home was a rendezvous for all German musicians who came to London  among whom he received Carl Maria von Weber, Felix Mendelssohn and many others. During the summer of 1829 he made a concert tour of Sweden and was enthusiastically received. In 1832 he was made a director of the Philharmonic Society and during that year produced at the concerts two new works, a new symphony and his C major concerto. During 1833 Mendelssohn again came to London to act as godfather to Moscheles' little child. Moscheles' compositions for this year were the B major concerto, the impromptu in E flat major, and a composition made with Mendelssohn on the Gypsy March from Weber's Preciosa. In 1834 besides his usual number of concerts we find Moscheles playing at the Birmingham Festival and giving a private performance of Israel in Egypt. His most important composition for that year was the overture, Joan of Arc. During the winter of 1836 and 1837 Moscheles gave three piano concerts, which were then a novelty in London, and after an immense amount of labor brought out and himself conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with brilliant success at a Philharmonic Society concert. His compositions for that year were two studies written during his vacation. Moscheles inaugurated the season of 1838 by a series of historical concerts, and during the winter of 1838 to 1839 held chamber concerts every Saturday at his own home. During this winter he wrote the study in A and Liebesfrühling and worked on an edition of Beethoven's work. In 1839 he appeared with Ferdinand David at the second concert of the PhilHarmonic Society, playing his Pastoral Concerto on this occasion. The following year he was appointed Court pianist to Prince Albert. During this year he prepared for publication his Recollections of Beethoven, and brought out Methode des Methodes, written with Fetis. In 1841 he again conducted the Ninth Symphony at a Philharmonic concert. During his holidays at Boulogne he wrote the serenade and a tarentella and arranged Beethoven's Septet as a piano duet


The year 1846 was an important one for Moscheles and marked a turning point in his career In January he accepted the position of head of the department for playing and composition at the Leipsic Conservatory, which enabled him to work at the side of his beloved Felix Mendelssohn. His four matinees for Classical Piano Music of that year were very successful, and after a brilliant farewell concert he left for Germany. After stopping at Frankfort, where he first met Jenny Lind, he arrived in Leipsic and immediately took up his duties at the Conservatory and began that system of careful teaching and that friendly service to his pupils which made him greatly beloved by them. His friendship with Mendelssohn and his family was a source of great pleasure to both musicians, and on Mendelssohn's death a year later he grieved not only for a great musician cut off from his work but also for a friend. During a visit to England in 1861 he played at the Philharmonic concert, and on another visit in 1866 he composed his Familienleben while at the seaside surrounded by children and grandchildren. Thus working at the Conservatory and spending vacations in travel to various countries he passed a long and useful life. His death occurred at Leipsic, March 10, 1870. He was a thorough disciple of classic music. As a piano-player he ranked with Hummel. He wrote a great number of compositions of  rare excellence. Some of the more important are Concerto Pathetique, Hommage a Handel for two pianos, Concerto in G minor, Alexander Variations, Twenty-four Studies, Concerto Pastoral, Characteristic Studies, the grand fantasie, Souvenirs of Ireland  grand trio for piano, violin and cello, Grand Senate Symphonique and Duo Concertant on the Gypsy March from Preciosa, written with Mendelssohn. With Fetis he wrote his Methode des Methodes for piano.