NIKOLAUS VON KRUFFT (1779-1818)
Sonata in E major
- Allegro moderato
- Andante espressivo
- Rondo “alla Polacca”
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata in F major op. 17
- Allegro moderato
- Poco Adagio, quasi Andante
- Rondo, Allegro moderato
JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Largo (after the “Rider” Quartet)
MAXIMILLIAN JOSEPH LEIDESDORF (1787-1840) CAMILLA BELLONCI (1781-18??)
Sonata in E flat op. 164
- Allegro con brio ma non troppo
- Tempo di Marcia Lugubre, Adagio ma non troppo
- Allegretto, Rondo Pastorale
Sonatas for horn and fortepiano
When one looks at the life of Nikolaus von Krufft (born 1st of February 1779 in Vienna, died 16th of April 1818 in the same town) it is hard to ignore the tempestuous period in Viennesse history that he lived through. Born into an affluent family (his father, Andreas Adolph von Krufft, was a state minister and his mother, Maria Anna, was a pianist) Krufft was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. After graduating in 1801 from the University of Vienna where he had studied philosophy and law he undertook various posts as a civil servant until his early death at the age of 39. The first two decades of the 19th century were a notorious time of flux with the violent impact of not only Napoleon’s empire building but also of the conflicts between many other countries struggling to preserve or extend their borders. Krufft must have seen much of the negotiation first hand as he accompanied Metternich to Paris in 1815 and to Italy and Steiermark in 1817. Krufft composed prolifically during his short life. He received his earliest piano lessons from his mother and later composition lessons from Albrechtsberger. Krufft’s works include a vast number of lieder, sonatas (including not only this Sonata for Horn and Fortepiano but many for other instruments such as cello, ba soon, and, of course, solo fortepiano) and, taking Bach as his model, 24 Preludes and Fugues for fortepiano. In 1818 the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung described him as “a pianist of rare talent and precision, a composer of study and spirit”. Krufft’s Sonata for Horn and Fortepiano was first published in 1812 and is considered a great addition to the repertoire. It is unknown if it was written for a specific horn player, though it is possible that it was written for Friedrich Bode, principal horn player at the Court Chapel in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, as Krufft later composed a set of Variations for horn and piano for Bode.
The life of Giovanni Punto (born Jan Václav Stich) has been described as “resembling that of a novel” (H. Kling). Born in 1746 into a family of serfs in Žehusiče (close to Čáslav) in Bohemia, the musical youth was noticed by the local count who financed his studies, first in Prague with Matiegka, then in Munich with Schinderlarz and finally with Haudek and Hampel in Dresden. Charles Burney had described Bohemia as the “Conservatoire of Europe”, reflecting the high quality of musicians, in particular wind musicians emerging from the country in the late 18th century. Understandably, having seen a little more of the world, Stich was not happy on his return to continue working in the service of his philanthropic count and absconded. Legend has it that his now ex-employer issued commands that if Stich was found his front teeth should be knocked out, prevent- ing him playing the horn again. Luckily this threat was never carried out and, now going under the name of Giovanni Punto, the young horn player set off on a life that resembled one long concert tour, with hardly any corner of Europe not visited. In 1800 he arrived in Vienna where he met the young Beethoven. Thayer describes the horn player as “without rival amongst his predecessors and his contemporaries”, though he was less than flattering about Punto as a composer. Ferdinand Ries relates that Beethoven left the composition of the sonata to the last moment: “the day before the concert, Beethoven put himself to work, and by the evening’s concert, it was finished”. Beethoven undoubtedly admired Punto’s horn playing and his writing evidently understood and exploited many aspects of Punto’s virtuosic style – including the rapid arpeggio passages and factitious low notes that were the calling card of any cor basso soloist. In September 1802, the threat of losing his front teeth having diminished, Punto finally returned to Čáslav where, with his fellow Bohemian, the pianist Dussek, he gave a concert that included the Beethoven sonata for horn and piano. He had planned to return to Paris, but illness prevented this, and on the 16th of February 1803 he died in Prague.
The practice of arranging or transcribing works of contemporary or earlier composers was rife in early 19th century Europe. Many compositions were published in a variety of forms, allowing greater dissemination of works and, slightly more prosaically, greater sales. Beethoven published his sonata for horn and fortepiano in a version for cello, and a contemporary version survives for basset clarinet. The Largo for horn and piano comes from Haydn’s string quartet Hob II;74, known as the “Reiter- Quartett” (“Rider Quartet”). Composed in Vienna in 1793 it is one of the quartets that make up the “Salomon Quartets”. The movement appears in many different forms. Dussek arranged it as part of his version of the Salomon Quartets for piano trio. Piano versions abound, including one suspected to be an arrangement by Haydn himself. It even appears as the last movement of “Der Versöhnungstod”, a cantata made up of settings of six Haydn instrumental adagios arranged by J.A.Schulze in the year of Haydn’s death. The composer of this unusual arrangement for horn and fortepiano, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1818, is unknown.
The name Leidesdorf is mainly recalled today in association with the publishers Leidesdorf und Sauer. Maximillian Joseph Leidesdorf (born on July 5th, 1787 in Vienna) was a prolific composer. The third composer on this disc to study with Albrechtsberger, he also received composition lessons from Salieri and was a notable pianist and guitarist. In 1822 he went into business with the music publisher Ignaz Sauer and their publishing house Leidesdorf und Sauer was responsible for many first publications of Franz Schubert’s work including the song for voice with horn obligato “Auf dem Strom”. In 1824 Leidesdorf und Sauer published the Sonata pour pianoforte et cor concertans op. 164 unusually described as composed by two composers, “Bellonci und M.J.Leidesdorf”. Camilla Bellonci was born in Italy in 1781 and, following study in France and Germany, moved to Vienna where he played with many of the orchestras including the orchestra of the Kärntenertor Theatre and the Imperial Hofkapelle. Little is known of Bellonci; however, he appears in Louis-François Dauprat’s seminal Méthode de cor- alto et cor-basse published in 1824. Dauprat refers to some contemporary problems with horn design, specifically the necessary bending of the tubing of the instrument to create a tuning slide. He rather cryptically refers to Bellonci’s solution which “...ingenious and simple as it is, remains naturally his property; besides, he must soon make it known, so we cannot allow ourselves to betray his confidence. We will report only that Bellonci’s horn, which he has almost entirely finished, combines all the qualities that a player could wish for: that is, it allows him to give all the strength of gentleness possible to the sound without altering it; moreover, it is easy to play and is perfectly in tune throughout the whole range of each crook.” (translation: Viola Roth). Both the horn and piano parts to this sonata are highly virtuosic and one suspects a great deal of collaboration in the compositional process reflected by the two names on the frontispiece. (Maybe if one reflects back on Beethoven’s use of Punto’s tricks of the trade, and the speed in which Beethoven is thought to have composed the op. 17 sonata there is justification for deeming that sonata similarly as being composed by “Beethoven and Punto”?). In 1827 Leidesdorf moved to Florence where he was appointed a court and chamber musician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany and professor at the conservatory. He remained in Florence until his death in 1840.