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G.C.Wagenseil Keyboard Music

Wagenseil lived from 1715 to 1777.

"At his time, Wagenseil was a very famous composer, and a famous harpsichordist before Emmanuel Bach"...(J.B.Schenk, 1830).

.................."he is a marvellous harpsichord player" (Metastasio, 1751).

....."it would be better if our young players practised Wagenseil, rather than reeling off those poor pieces by the Albertis and Hepps, the new Italians and especially the Frenchmen..." (Schubart, 1775).

Wagenseil was Court Piano Teacher and an outstanding representative of the Viennese pre-classical era. He was a prolific composer, writing 96 symphonies, 103 concertos, 87 chamber music works, 88 divertimentos and many other pieces for keyboard. He was the favourite pupil of J.J.Fux, was famous as a harpsichord teacher, and Leopold Mozart thought highly of him. His most illustrious pupil was the Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1738-89).

The divertimentos are miniatures; they are composed economically and with a simple melodic style. They are extremely musical, and are worthy representatives of the Rococo era.

The above remarks are paraphrased from Dr. Helga Scholtz- Michelitsch's introduction to the op. 1 Divertimentos, Verlag Doblinger, 1971.

REMARKS BY N.D: There is a regrettable tendency amongst music career academics to explain to students that Wagenseil, CPE Bach and others were "leading the way to the music of Haydn and Mozart". For example, the book I have in front of me now says "............these features make the pieces optimum prepatory material for coming to terms with the piano music of Haydn and Mozart."

I am not a music academic, and have no position to defend, or axe to grind, but I think the academics are missing the point. Wagenseil is not "preparatory material". He was an able composer in his own right, and his music is worthy of study for its own sake; I've spent two years playing it. Haydn and Mozart admired him, perhaps ....... but that's as far as it goes. Secondly, Wagenseil's solo keyboard music is generally more enjoyable and better written than that of either Mozart or Haydn. That is why I play it.

Works:

6 DIVERTIMENTI, op. 1 (Vienna, 1753)

6 DIVERTIMENTI, op 2 (Vienna, 1755)
These pieces are very attractive on the piano. They are clear, simple, and well structured. There are no technically difficult, unmusical passages of the sort you find in CPE Bach's music. The music lies well under the hands and the ideas are not over-worked. Some of the trills are better played as mordents; but there are no particular problems playing these pieces on the piano. Divertimentos 3 and 5 are especially attractive. There are some similarities with the keyboard pieces of Jiri Benda, the Czech composer, though Wagenseil is less elaborate and is better at endings. New edition: Diletto Musicale edition 1213, Doblinger,Vienna / Munich, 1996.

DIVERTIMENTO 1
1st movement- flows well; needs a nimble and light right hand. Bar 32 - the rh chord sounds odd - best to omit the top three notes and play the lower G only. Simiilarly at the end - the rh chord in C is too heavy; omit the top three notes and play the lower C only. 2nd movement- a leisurely Andante but with lots of neat ornamentation in th rh. This must flow smoothly. 3rd movement - Minuet - the writing here is pleasant enough but not so good as in the first two movements. The trio is a bit commonplace.

DIVERTIMENTO 2
1st movement - well written with not a note out of place. 2nd movement: use a bit of rubato on bars 1-2 and similar passages. Bar 8- rh - play D-F-Bb-A-G-F-Eb-D; the descending scale is better than Wagenseil's figuration. Make the ending bouncy and light, at the halfway point and at the end. 3rd movement - minuet - very pleasant, but ignore the ornamentation marks in bars 38,39,40; make them light, detached chords instead; sounds much better on the piano.

DIVERTIMENTO 3
1st movement - some lovely figurations and ornaments in this well written movement. It will sound really sparkly if played with a light touch and no blemishes. The only possible improvement for the piano is at the end - last 2 chords in the rh can be played an octave lower on the repeat. 2nd movement- too many ornaments in bar 12. Otherwise excellent. 3rd movement-minuet: this is fine; no alterations needed, though you could try in bar 47, last beat, rh, triplet CDE rather than a quaver on C; seems to give it better flow.

DIVERTIMENTO 4
Allegro- workmanlike writing; there's a misprint in the Dobliner edition in bars 4-5 (missing treble clef). Bars 11-12: the bass is too heavy if played on the piano as written. Play, in semiquavers, XYYY, XYYY, where X is the bass A and Y is the A above. Second half: of allegro: I don't like the jerky rhythm in bars 4-8, rh and prefer it smoothed out to ordinary semiquavers. The bass in bars 31-32 needs lightening as in the first half. Minuet & Trio - no special comments needed. Polonaise - the best movement; beautifully written. Allegro Assai - good movement; no special comments here.

DIVERTIMENTO 5
This is a beautiful work; the most inspired of the collection. The individual movements: Allegro moderato - the rh sounds better on the piano if the jerky rhythm is smoothed out to ordinary semiquavers. Fine ending to the first and second half. Minuet- very beautiful. The repeat needs to be more elaborate than the first time through. Omit some of the trills first time; fill in with extra notes in the rh on the repeat: suggest bar 5, last beat - triplet efg, 1st beat bar 6, triplet fed, bar 10 beats 2&3 triplet dcb followed by semiquavers edcb; similarly in bar 12, use a scale run in bar 14 beats 123: triplets gab cde then semiquavers fgab leading into the c of the next bar. Finally add the third in the lh chord in the final bar- suggest ebg, spread; don't make the top note third too prominent. A wonderful movement. Trio OK as a contrast but not in the same class. Then play the minuet through again; slightly different ornamentation. Allegro Assai- lovely modulations and figuration; another excellent movement. No alterations needed.

DIVERTIMENTO 6
Not so attractive as 5. Allegro- no special comments. Minuet- attractive. Andantino: over-fussy ornamentation in bars 2-3. The bass in bars 14-15 might be lightened slightly with advantage. Tempo di Menuet- no special comments apart from a mention of the missing treble clef in the lh in bars 38-41.

I have now found and practised the op. 1 and remarks will follow on these pieces shortly. I have recorded a fair amount of Wagenseil on CD; please email if you'd like a CD. Expenses plus p/p only.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website

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