Eclipse, Vol. 1 - Spee
Classical - Instrumental
Wölfl: Piano Sonata in C minor, Andante & Variations, Piano Sonata in B minor, Waltz in C minor
Spee: 3 Intermezzi
Mattias Spee (piano)
Mattias Spee (1997) studied with David Kuyken and Ralph van Raat, among others. He won several prizes, at the Prinses Christina Concours, the Steinway Piano Competition and the VriendenCultuurPrijs. Spee has a distinct preference for contemporary and lesser known repertoire. “I would like to bring hidden treasures from music history into the limelight,” says the pianist.
For the adventurous Dutch TRPTK label he has started a series with – unjustly – forgotten composers under the motto ‘Eclipse’. The first part is dedicated to the Austrian Joseph Wölfl (1773-1812), a contemporary and rival of Beethoven. He left behind a considerable body of work including symphonies, string quartets, operas, and the requisite piano concertos and sonatas.
Wölfl was particularly tall in stature, equipped with large hands and a virtuoso pur sang: with ease he could span thirteen keys. His music has a strong and penetrating character. While the often gruff Beethoven performed mainly for the old elite, the friendly Wölfl appealed to a much wider audience. Wölfl was an eminent improviser and he was also extremely popular as a teacher. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and could be found not only in concert halls but also regularly at the gaming tables.
Colorful is the ‘Sonata in C minor’ with which the album opens. The ‘Fugue’ in particular continues to resonate for minutes. The ‘9 Variations on an Andante’ is evidence of great musical imagination. The ‘Sonata in B minor’ is compelling and the ‘Waltz in C minor’ forms a beautiful conclusion.
For Mattias Spee the start of his ‘Eclipse’ series for TRPTK is “a dream come true, the start of a great journey. I stand squarely behind my debut and find myself aligned with the views of Brendon Heinst, a recording engineer driven by passion and enthusiasm, just like me. I hope that this lesser-known repertoire by Joseph Wölfl will introduce a new audience to classical music, a fascinating world with which far too few are familiar. In short, I wish that many will enjoy this particularly beautiful music.”
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 7, 2021
A young, hardly known pianist playing a hardly known composer. Probably a hit for some but open to question for most. However, people familiar with the label will know that TRPTK takes quality seriously, both in terms of musicians and recording, and does not go for the obvious to bolster its sales. They cater to a niche market, the market of discerned music lovers with an open mind, going for quality rather than quantity. Mathias Spee and Joseph Wölfl fit the bill.
I must admit that I, too, belonged to the group of ‘open to question’, never having heard of any of them before. I say ‘belonged’ in the past tense because when I listened to this new release, it was a direct hit. I won’t go as far as to claim that we have here an undiscovered Beethoven, but I do agree with Mattias Spee’s remarks that it is a pity that Big Names overshadow many talented contemporaries and that concertgoers prefer known territory, no doubt the main reason for these talents to fall into oblivion. On the other hand, though, we have so often been presented with spectacular ‘discoveries’ of small fish that we have become suspicious.
Wölfl was a pianist of renown and probably a better one than Beethoven. An article in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig, April 1799) discusses opinions about both. Wölfl was judged to be the best because more precise; though Beethoven was the better improviser. Being a concert pianist and piano teacher, Wölfl's oeuvre for piano takes examples from Haydn, Mozart, although in my view mostly Beethoven, and even Bach(!) as can be heard in the Fuga of the Sonata in C minor. Indeed, not an innovator, be it that in some ways he sounds like a precursor to Schubert’s romantic idiom. Taken at face value we cannot but conclude that he was a highly accomplished composer all the same.
Apart from two of the three sonatas Op. 28, Spee has added some smaller pieces (variations, waltz) thus creating an overall picture of the composer’s piano style, and, surprisingly, some of his own ‘in the style of’, which I think could be Schubert (Intermezzo I), Haydn (Intermezzo II) and Brahms (Intermezzo III). Anyhow, it is quite obvious to any listener that we have here someone eager to win audiences over to Wölfl’s piano legacy. Spee’s judicious and stylish elegance, yet intensely effective playing will not fail to conquer the hearts of even the most vigorous doubter. Yes! This is wonderful stuff!
If you want to know more about Wölfl, no need to search the internet. Thijs Bonger, the author of the liner notes, has done all the work for you. Pleasant reading, too.
All I can say is that Mattias Spee has opened a treasure trove with this first volume in the TRPTK Eclipse series “of unjustly forgotten composers”. I do not know what is to follow, but in the meantime whet your appetite with this one, you won’t be disappointed.
Brendon Heinst guarantees the best possible sound (recorded in DXD 352.8 kHz 32 bits).
Blangy le château, Normandy, France.
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