Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kemp English has recorded the complete Kozeluch Keyboard Sonatas - a few words on Vol.11

Kemp English (photo: Helen English)
Like several other composers in music history, Bohemian musician Jan Antonín Koželuch (1747-1818) set his sights at studying Law. While at Prague University, he continued music studies with his older cousin (also Jan Antonín Koželuch) and with Mozart’s future friend František Dušek. But, due to  his immediate success in ballet- and pantomime music, Koželuch abandoned his legal studies, moving to Vienna in 1778 (some three years before Mozart) having changed his first name to Leopold to avoid being confused with his cousin. It was there that he produced more than half of his 49 piano sonatas in the 1780s, many received with great enthusiasm. Like Mozart, the pianist, composer and teacher delighted the music-loving Viennese aristocracy. He was so well regarded there that he was offered employment by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Koželuch began publishing his own works and in 1785 officially opened his own publishing house, also developing ties with many other European publishers. Having been a member of the team proofreading Christopher Hogwood’s Bärenreiter edition of the Koželuch keyboard sonatas, New Zealand keyboard specialist Kemp English completed the world premiere recording of the complete cycle of Koželuch solo keyboard sonatas in 2013. On KOŽELUCH Complete Keyboard Sonatas - 11, English plays three very early sonatas from the 1770s and two later works from 1809.


Kemp English plays Sonatas Nos. 44, 45 and 46, the earlier works, on an original 1785 harpsichord by Longman and Broderip, built for them by Thomas Culliford. Works bristling with freshness and Rococo charm, some movements more sophisticated than others, here is a fine sample of what able amateur players in Vienna and their guests enjoyed in the fashionable salons. In playing that is vivid, articulate in detail, sincere and tastefully ornamented, English takes his inspiration from the texts themselves and from the possibilities offered by the splendid, vigorous timbres of the instrument for which they were written.


Koželuch, however, lived at a time the harpsichord was being superseded by the more expressive fortepiano. He became an enthusiastic supporter of the newer instrument, using the fortepiano to express the clarity, delicacy, the light and shade he wished to be expressed in his music. He therefore would not accept students who did not wish to familiarize themselves with the fortepiano. The two first works on this disc are played on a fortepiano built around 1815 in Vienna by Johann Fritz. The zesty opening movement of Piano Sonata No.42 in F major, Op. 53, No.2 takes the listener into the richness and and variety of the Classical sonata style, with its fast flow of ideas and development of motifs. The hearty second movement (Rondo), with its small reminiscences of the opening movement, is also powered with a good measure of joie-de-vivre. Somewhat more understated, Piano Sonata No.43 in E flat major, Op. 53 No.3 makes for fine piano fare, its second (and final) movement also a Rondo Allegretto. In his highly informative program notes, Kemp English draws the listener’s attention to the bassoon stop engaged in this movement, producing a “charming buzzy effect”.


Considering the fact that Leopold Koželuch was a prominent figure on the robust Viennese musical scene populated by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, music history has not treated him favourably. Kemp English’s deep enquiry into the composer’s piano sonatas and his impeccable performance of them are a keen reminder to the listener that Koželuch, a transitional composer both admired and criticized, was nevertheless a major figure in the shaping of taste in keyboard music. Engaging in its buoyant recorded sound, Kemp English in KOŽELUCH Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol.11 (GRAND PIANO GP735) invites the listener to attend a fashionable late 18th century music salon in Vienna to hear music of the time performed in the most authentic manner.


Kemp English is one of New Zealand’s leading concert performers. Much in demand as a solo organist, collaborative pianist, and specialist fortepiano exponent, he enjoys performing music of a diverse array of styles and periods. Following a distinguished studentship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, he later completed a Master of Arts degree in music performance at the University of York. He took his doctoral studies at the University of Adelaide. In 2001 Kemp English was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music – an honour recognising former students of the Academy who have achieved distinction in the profession. Four years later, after more than a decade as Executant Lecturer in fortepiano, organ and harpsichord performance at the University of Otago, he made the decision to freelance and concentrate on his performing and recording career. Dr. Kemp English continues to tour Australasia and Europe as both a solo and collaborative performer.


1 comment:

Geneviève said...

Koželuch is a wonderful composer, worth rediscovering indeed!