Joseph Wölfl

Joseph Wölfl (1773-1812)

Nationality: Austrian
Born: December 24, 1773, Salzburg Died: May 21, 1812, London (age 38)

Piano Trio in D major, Op. 23, No. 1

(for violin, cello and piano)
I. Allegro maestoso
II. Menuetto. Presto
III. Adagio ma non troppo
III. Finale. Allegretto
Duration: 23 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1803 (age 29-30)
1 recording, 1 videos
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Balmas, Simpson, Colladant
From Edition Silvertrust

Joseph WölflJoseph Wölfl (1773-1812) (the name is often spelled Woelfl) was born in Salzburg. He studied violin, piano and composition there with Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang’s father) and Michael Haydn (Joseph’s brother). In 1790, he moved to Vienna where it is thought he briefly studied with Wolfgang Mozart. Wölfl became a virtuoso pianist and was sometimes considered to be Beethoven’s equal. It was on Wolfgang’s recommendation the Wölfl was able to procure a position with Count Michal Casimir Oginski as a piano teacher in Warsaw. During the political upheavals in Poland he returned to Vienna and then began a career as a touring concert pianist, eventually settling in Paris (1801-1805) and then London where he spent the rest of his life. Wölfl wrote operas, ballets, symphonies, works for piano, songs and quite a lot of chamber music, including some 25 string quartets, 3 string quintets, 15 standard piano trios and several others for various instrumental combinations with piano. In addition to this, he wrote dozens of sonatas and other works for violin and piano, flute and piano and harp and piano. Wölfl's music is of a very high quality and it would not be an exaggeration to say it the equal to Haydn's. It was often performed during his lifetime and for several decades thereafter when it inexplicably disappeared from concert stages.

Op.23 No.1 in D is the first of a set of three which were published in 1803 and completed the year before, while he was sojourning in Paris. The opening movement, Allegro maestoso, more dramatic than majestic, burst forth with great power and thrust, which color the entire movement. The Minuetto, presto which follows is more a scherzo than a minuet. The rhythm, with its heavy accents on beats one and two, create the interest. In the third movement, Adagio ma non troppo, lovely singing lines are given to the strings while the piano has soft moving phrases which keep the tempo moving forward. The lively finale, Allegretto, gives proof of Wölfl's Austrian roots. This is a clever and pleasing work, far superior to any of the Haydn piano trios as to part-writing. The cello is given a real part to play and is not just a double of the piano bass line.

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