Ignaz Moscheles

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Ignaz Moscheles


• 1794 1870


Though he is generally regarded as a minor composer, Ignaz Moscheles, who wrote in multiple genres, produced a substantial body of piano music worthy of attention, both for its masterly character and its imaginative sound world. His piano sonatas, held in high esteem by Schumann, are particularly of interest. The Op. 49 Sonate mélancolique may be among his finest works. Recent interest in his seven piano concertos (the score to the eighth is lost) was fueled by a complete cycle from Howard Shelley on Hyperion Records, the whole revealing works conservative in outlook, witty, highly individual, and skillfully scored. Moscheles is remembered for his brilliant pianistic talents, as well; he was also one of the finest piano pedagogues of his age, serving on the faculty of the Leipzig Conservatory as its leading professor of piano for almost 25 years. In addition, he was a gifted conductor.

Ignaz Moscheles was born in Prague, Bohemia (now Czech Republic), on May 23, 1794. Though he took piano lessons in his early childhood, he began his first serious studies in 1804 with Prague Conservatory director B.D. Weber. In 1808 Moscheles left Prague for Vienna, where he studied composition with Antonio Salieri and theory and counterpoint with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger.

Moscheles soon launched his career in Europe and England as a touring virtuoso pianist. Shortly after his 1825 marriage to Charlotte Embden, he settled with her in London, where he had scored several previous notable successes in concert.

Moscheles not only performed as a pianist (both his and other composers' works), but he often conducted as well. Among his most notable achievements on the podium was the 1832 British premiere of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis. He also proselytized on behalf of Beethoven, championing both his piano and orchestral works. He led many acclaimed performances of the Ninth Symphony.

In 1846 Moscheles and his family relocated to Leipzig, where he accepted a faculty post at the Conservatory. He would remain there for the remainder of his life, striving to maintain high standards at the Conservatory, especially after the death of his friend and Conservatory founder, Felix Mendelssohn. Moscheles also remained quite active as a composer and pianist in his remaining years. In addition, he was compelled to become a defender against bigotry: Jewish by birth, he vigorously counterattacked against Wagner's anti-Semitic charges as set forth in the notorious 1850 article "Jewishness in Music."