That group of budding Romantics from across Europe, working in England at the cusp of the 18th and 19th centuries, has recently been dubbed the London School of piano-playing. The music produced by this group--by Clementi, Field, Pinto, Weber, Sterndale Bennett and Moscheles, among others--is as fascinating as the appellation.
Some of it was exposed on Ian Hobson's splendid recital on the Chamber Music in Historic Sites series, Sunday. The prize-winning British pianist who teaches in Illinois has been absent from Los Angeles for the better part of a decade. We deserve to hear his elegant brand of pianism more often.
His compact but generous program offered worthy sonatas by Dussek, Field and Clementi, six of the 84 etudes written by John Baptist Cramer, and shorter pieces. If one never felt completely engaged by Hobson's musical concentration--forgiving listeners might say his mind was wandering on this idyllic afternoon in a 75-year old mansion (the Tod Ford house) overlooking the Arroyo--his expertise and authority were never in question.
A half-dozen of the "Studios per il pianoforte" by the German pianist, composer and publisher, Cramer, proved the most colorful of these unfamiliar works.
Of passionate temperament and Romantic bent, these pieces, written in 1804, look forward to comparable \o7 morceaux \f7 written 30 years later by Schumann and Mendelssohn.
Similarly warm-blooded, Dussek's "Farewell" Sonata displayed melodic and architectonic qualities which ought to be aired more frequently. One felt the same about Clementi's spare and serious F-minor Sonata (Opus 13, No. 6), which, like most of that composer's later works, deserves a wider broadcast than it has heretofore received.
Technically alert and musically astute, the 37-year old Hobson performed all these pieces carefully and conscientiously. At the end of the program, he finally had some fun, in a most charming performance of the irresistible, two-movement, E-flat Sonata by John Field. After that, he offered a single encore in Moscheles' Romance and Tarantella.