Friedrich Wilhelm Michael Kalkbrenner


Kalkbrenner was one of the first of the unknown and/or neglected XIX century composers in whom I became interested. From my reading, I found it difficult to correlate his reputation as a composer/pianist during the London and the early Paris parts of his career (after all, even Chopin thought highly of him at that time) with the reputation he seems to have among many writers today. I did not feel that he could ever have been so good, but doubted if he could on the other hand been so lacking in all talent.
The catalogue shows a complete list of the music I own - some in photocopy, and some original editions .It includes all 13 of Kalkbrenner's sonatas for solo piano, both sonatas for accompanied piano, both duet sonatas, and the piano pasts of his first two piano concerti. The "notorious" Effusio Musica is included among the many non sonata works. One interesting work is the Rondo on a theme by Mr. Bischop (sic) Op. 65, it is quite charming, but the handwritten
"Mrs Bush,
Berlin 20 August 1823",
I not only find touching, but this also dates the publication of Op. 65 accurately.
A somewhat more complete list of Kalkbrenner's compositions can be found in Grove's Dictionary of music and Musicians.

Life

(Summarised from : FÉTIS Biographie Musicelle(Vol 1V) Published 1869 (2nd Edition): MARMONTEL Les Pianistes Celebres(1878))

Both Fétis and Marmontel say that he was born in Kassel in 1794, although there seems to be some doubt. According to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1894), he was born in 1788 near Berlin, whereas the latest edition states that he was born early November 1895 between Kassel and Berlin.

In childhood, he studied the piano and music in Kassel with his father.
1796. Went with family to Naples
1798: Conservatoire in Paris in piano class of Louis Adam, father of Adolph Adam..
1799: Studied harmony with Catel.
1800: Won 2nd prize at the Conservatoire for piano.
1801: Won 1st prize for both for piano and for harmony.
1803: Quarrelled with father & went to Vienna.(Presumably at this time he was taught by Josef Haydn, since he later dedicated his piano sonata Op56. to Haydn from his pupil Kalkbrenner). H changed his piano style after hearing Clementi play. He wrote "Méthode de Piano" describing the technique intended to achieve regularity & independence of fingers.
1806: returned to Paris (after death of father) as teacher rather than performer.
1814: England - regarded as the most learned professor of piano. Was in England from 1814 when many compositions were published. Yearly visited his property at Rambouillet.
1817 Tour of Germany.
1818: Associated with Logier (chiroplast) the use of which involved him in controversy with other musicians.
1823: Left England and went to Germany with the Harpist Dizi. Toured Frankfurt, Leipzig,Dresden, Berlin, Prague, Vienna etc.
1824: returned Paris associated with Camille Pleyel as manufacturer of pianos which resulted in him becoming very wealthy. He became chief of a school of pianists whose pupils included Mme Pleyel. His school was considered the ultimate development of the Clementi school of piano playing. Teaching was of free active independence of fingers & muscular strength of arms.
1828 Awarded the Légion d'Honneur
1833: Concert tour of Germany: Hamburg & Berlin. Awarded the Order of the Red Eagle of Prussia.
1836: He went to Belgium where he was given order of Leopold. In this year he developed gout.
1839: Retired from public performance.
1849, he died of cholera at Enghien-les-Bains near Paris on 10 or 11 June.

(Marmontel (in 1878!) considered him a master of the 1st order, but old fashioned. His style seemed "démodéet poncif".)