Friday, June 3, 2016

Johann Baptist Cramer and Miklos Schwalb - a Strong Musical Connection In My Formative Years...

During my first few years as both a teacher and performer, I became increasingly interested in the  life and works of  Cramer, especially his Etudes.
I was first attracted to him by way of the open admiration that Beethoven had  held for him as "one of the premier pianists of the day." Born a year or so after Beethoven, Cramer  had become one of Clementi's most renown students, while at the same time Beethoven amassed more of Clementi's piano music for his personal library than the keyboard music of Mozart. And so, there was an assiduously strong mutuality coming out of this trio.
I began, in increasing measure, doling out various etudes of Cramer  to  my more advanced students, and became immersed in learning several of these rather singular works myself, taking care to learn those etudes which were never given to my students (I  felt like Tchaikovsky during his teaching period, he being about only six weeks ahead of some of his own students, as the music education aspect of Russian history was still clambering to its feet).
Miklos Schwalb was a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music ( as well as, I believe, an educator at Northeastern University). He became well-known as a performer, and appeared throughout America and Europe. I never studied piano  with Schwalb, but I sought him out due to his massive knowledge of 16th century counterpoint. He took me on as a student for several months in a 'crash course' in the subject. The lessons were held at his apartment, which I recall was close to the Conservatory. I was dazzled by his teaching style, let alone his depth of knowledge. However, the deepest impact I received from this experience was my first view of his apartment, which was littered with various body-building equipment. Picture a large room with equal amounts of music manuscript and bar bells and ropes  strewn throughout. I DO recall his being, essentially, the healthiest appearing musician in my memory.
Finally, I discovered (I cannot recall how) that he had  a great connection with and open admiration of Johann Baptist Cramer and, especially -  his Etudes!
Schwalb recorded a number of the Cramer  Etudes, which you can hear.
I occasionally feel a tug of sadness upon my never having taken piano lessons with him - he was a terrific pianist, as you can hear...

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