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Joseph Wölfl deserves further mention for his half dozen piano concertos written in the first decade of the 19th Century. Wölfl was a student of Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn and Beethoven’s pianistic rival. In 1798 he took part in a musical betting competition against Beethoven. Wölfl won the competition with Beethoven taking 2nd place. Wolfgang Mozart valued Wölfl’s skills highly enough to recommend the eighteen year old as a piano teacher to Prince Michael Kleofas Ogiński at the court in Warsaw. He was highly esteemed in Paris at 18 and regarded as one of the most fascinating musicians of his time. Wölfl was a piano virtuoso and performed as such but he also produced an immense list of over 600 works ranging from operas and ballets to symphonies and chamber-music. This was something new and one of the reasons that made him so exceptional. In this respect Wölfl stands between the great composers of the 18th beginning 19th century and the piano virtuosi of the 19th century who composed mainly for the piano.

Wölfl’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in F major, op. 32 is a good example of his art. It opens with a delightfully virtuosic allegro in triple time, followed by a lovely calm andante in C which becomes agitated as it encounters a short period in the minor, before the opening calm returns, with filigree fioriture that now decorates the melody, looking forward to Chopin. The presto finale is a set of variations, on a theme that immediately suggests a village dance with a distinctly Austro-Hungarian, even Russian flavor. Wölfl’s music is high entertainment which tends to have an uplifting feel about it, a quality which is always in demand.

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