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Past Images of the Month - November 2015

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Étude ... Contenant Cinquante Exercices de Différents Genres, Op.78. Paris, [1805].  Described by Czerny as 'a valuable work, and worthy to follow Cramer's', these studies remained standard teaching material until the end of the nineteenth century.

Étude ... Contenant Cinquante Exercices de Différents Genres, Op.78. Paris, [1805]. Described by Czerny as 'a valuable work, and worthy to follow Cramer's', these studies remained standard teaching material until the end of the nineteenth century.

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STEIBELT, Daniel Gottlieb (b Berlin, 22 October 1765; d St Petersburg, 20 September 1823)

During his lifetime Steibelt, the 250th anniversary of whose birth fell last month, was known throughout Europe as a prolific and successful composer – even thought for a time to rival Beethoven.  The son of a Berlin harpsichord maker, he attracted the patronage of the crown prince (later King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia) and from an early age studied with the composer and theorist Johann Philipp Kirnberger.  After a spell in the Prussian army (from which he deserted in 1784) he began touring as a virtuoso pianist, making a particular impression in Vienna, Munich and (from c.1787) Paris.  Perhaps the most dazzling in the group of young pianists who came to prominence at the court of Marie Antoinette, he won a contest with the Queen’s teacher in 1788 and soon found a ready market for his published compositions, coupled with a constant demand for his teaching.  In 1793 his first opera Roméo et Juliette was premièred with success at the Théâtre Feydeau.

In 1796 however some less than transparent business dealings made it expedient (not for the last time!) for him to leave Paris and he moved to London.  Here he made his debut at the King’s Theatre Concert Room on 6 February 1797 in a Concertante for harp and piano with the harpist Anne Marie Krumpholtz.  Five concerto appearances at the same venue during the next thirteen months culminated in the première of the work to which he owed much of his later success.  This was the Concerto, Op.33, ‘with rondo pastoral and storm’, introduced at Salomon’s Benefit Concert on 19 March 1798.  While here he formed a lifelong preference for English pianos, and acquired an attractive young English wife. (She played the tambourine as well as piano and took part in many of his later recitals.)

Steibelt’s ‘new grand heroic opera’ Albert and Adelaide was performed at Covent Garden in December 1798, but two later ballets for the King’s Theatre, Le jugement du berger Paris (180  ) and La belle Laitière (1805) had greater success.  Meanwhile further touring had taken him back him to Germany,Vienna (where at the home of Count Moritz von Fries in 1800 he engaged in a markedly less successful contest with Beethoven) and Paris, where in 1800 he conducted the French première of Haydn’s Creation at the Opéra. 

After another Opéra première - this time Steibelt’s own ballet Le Retour de Zéphire in 1802 -  and six years spent more or less equally in London and Paris, he was appointed director of the French Opera at St Petersburg and in 1810 succeeded Boieldieu additionally as maitre de chapelle to the Emperor Alexander.  For St Petersburg he composed five more operas and ballets and revised Roméo et Juliette.  After his death in 1823 he was given a semi-public funeral.

According to Sainsbury’s Dictionary of Musicians (1824): 'Steibelt was not less esteemed as an admirable player, than as a pleasing composer.  His forte lay in music of the bravura kind, which he gave with great precision, power, and effect, united to singular beauty and delicacy of manner.  His compositions for the piano-forte, particularly those of the middle part of his life, had numerous admirers as well in Germany as in England, but particularly in France.  This may be easily accounted for from the character of his music, which is full of gaiety, animation, and spirit, easy of conception, and generally not difficult in the performance.'

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Trois Sonates, Op.1. Paris, [1787]. This is first edition of Steibelt's first set of sonatas.

Trois Sonates, Op.2. Paris, [1797?].  First published in Munich in 1788 and in Paris c.1790. Deux Sonates et La Coquette, Op.6. Paris, [1792]. Six Sonates, Op.27. Paris, [1797].

Six Sonates, Op.11, Paris, [1793]. Three Sonatas, Op.26. London, [1799]. A Grand Sonata, Op.30. London, [c.1800].

Amusement for the Ladies. London, [1796]. Celebrated Storm Concerto, Op.33.  London, [c.1813].  First published in 1798. Celebrated Storm Rondo, Op.33. London, [c.1830].  A later edition of the Rondo Finale.

Le Jugement du Berger Paris. Piano score, signed by the composer. London, [1804]. La Belle Laitière. Piano score. London, [1805]. Twelve Waltzes, Op.34. London, [1798].

5e Pot-Pourri ou Caprice. Paris, [1792]. Grand Sonate, Op.[59]. Paris / Lyon, [c.1800]. Grand Duo pour Harpe et Piano. Paris, [1801].

Le Retour du Zephir. Piano score. London, [1809].  This ballet had been performed at the Paris Opéra in 1802. Grande Sonate, Op.64. Paris, [1805]. Six Bacchanales. Paris, [1807].

Three Grand Sonatas, Op.66. London, [1807].  First published by Dale in 1802. Méthode de Piano. Paris, [1805]. A Grand Concerto.  London, [c.1804].  Originally composed for the harp virtuoso Anne Marie Krumpholtz.

The Conflagration of Moscow. Grand Fantasia. London, [1815].