Enjoyable quartets for Friedrich Wilhelm II

Colour your autumn! © Charles Thibo

“Some quartets have just appeared by a certain Pleyel, he’s a pupil of Joseph Haydn”, a certain Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote in a letter to his father in April 1784. “If you don’t know them, try to get hold of them; they are worth it. They’re very well written, and very enjoyable […] It’ll be good – and fortunate for music if in due course Pleyel is able to replace Haydn for us!” Pleyel did not quite replace Haydn however. He would move abroad, Haydn would outlive Mozart and Vienna’s next rising star would be Ludwig van Beethoven.

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Pleyel writes “better music” for the colonists

Summer music. © Charles Thibo

Occasionally my research for this blog uncovers information that truly makes me laugh out loud. Here’s a delightful detail. The 18th-century composer Ignaz Joseph Pleyel was an extremely business-orientated man, and, unlike many of his colleagues, very successful at that. He did not only get rich by publishing and printing other composers’ work and by selling pianos built in his own factory. He wrote some of his concertos in different versions, each time for a different solo instrument. Very efficient. I wonder whether he had also had a discount policy, something like: “Buy the concert versions for clarinet and flute and get the cello version for free!”

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Delicate trios and revolutionary hymns

Pleyel easily colors a dull autumn day. © Charles Thibo

Here is what it takes: a violin, a cello and a harpsichord. Furthermore an Austrian composer, music publisher and founder of a piano factory. Add some teaching by Joseph Haydn, an internship under Franz Xaver Richter (see an earlier post of mine) at the Cathedral of Strasbourg. Ignaz Joseph Pleyel has done it all. In 1791 he wrote a beautiful trio for keyboard in C, Ben. 441. In 2011, the Trio 1790 and Jennifer Morsches released an album with this works and it is worth listening to it.

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