The Romantic period could also be called the golden era of virtuosity. The virtuosos of the 19th century included musicians and composers like Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Clara Schumann and Marie Jaell. They performed to an exceptional standard. The cult of genius was fostered; they were revered like demigods. One of the most significant and famous virtuosos was the composer and “devil’s violinist” Niccolò Paganini; he triggered a veritable mania comparable to today’s pop stars. Schumann – who was very critical of false virtuosity and in this context spoke of virtuoso jingle-jangle – was not immune to this fashion either, as can be heard in this concert.

In his Musical House Rules and Rules for Life he wrote: Play in time! The playing of many virtuosos is like the gait of a drunkard. Make not such your models…. Be not led astray by the brilliant popularity of the so-called virtuosi. Think more of the applause of artists than that of the multitude.

Michael Schöch – piano

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