Austrian composer Gerald Schwertberger was a prolific composer who passed away on February 8, 2014.
Gerald Schwertberger was one of the earliest 20th/21st century composers we discovered — who had composed for piano and guitar. Robert and I performed his works at our debut concert in London in 2002. The works were easy, fun, and full of humor.
I’ve never been to Vienna. I’ve never met Gerald.
It was an e-mail exchange, later continued more actively on Facebook.
We followed each other on Facebook. He read my blogs. I played his music.
I wrote to Gerald about visiting Vienna this summer. He replied that he was very ill.
In November/December 2013, I wrote to Gerald that I was looking for easy but fun music for my adult beginning piano students. I explained that here on Maui, there is just one music store and one book store. We have to order online and pay for hefty delivery costs. Unless I can download it from the Internet, I usually don’t get to browse or see what’s available.
Gerald was very kind to send his easy piano pieces with such titles as “chopsticks meets the flea” and “happy piano.”
He was a prolific composer who wrote for piano, guitar, cello, and other instruments. Most of his published work can be obtained from Doblinger. Just google him and you’ll find his pieces performed and recorded.
Sadly Gerald passed away on February 8th, 2014. Through the postings on his Facebook page, I could see that he was much loved and admired by musicians in South America as well as his native Austria. Thank you, Gerald, for your gift of music.
A few years ago we came across the sheet music for the Grand Potpourri National originally written for piano and guitar in 1818. It was a joint collaboration between the great virtuosos of the day: pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel and guitarist Mauro Giuliani. We invited the musicologist and composer Rolf Straver to research and introduce it at our next house concert of 17th April 2010.
A few years ago we came across the sheet music for the Grand Potpourri National originally written for piano and guitar in 1818. It was a joint collaboration between the great virtuosos of the day: pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel and guitarist Mauro Giuliani.
A student of Mozart, Hummel was perhaps the most expensive piano teacher at the time, with students such as Mendelssohn and Heller. Hummel toured as a concert pianist and was even more famous than Mozart. Giuliani swept Vienna off its feet when he arrived from Italy. He befriended Beethoven. That circle of composer/performer musicians played in the Dukaten Concert Series in Vienna.
The Grand Potpourri National is not a short piece — requiring nearly 30 minutes of playtime. Just the piano score alone spans 31 pages! It is full of virtuosic passages such as the double octaves in the piano part (below).
When we first discovered the sheet music online, we didn’t understand why anyone would want to hear the national anthems in 1818. For one, we only recognised three. Second, the piece was so long that it would take ages just to learn it. We abandoned it in favour of the shorter Potpourri on famous opera themes by Hummel which took just 10 minutes (and have recorded it in our first CD).
Last year we took a second look at the Grand Potpourri National. Upon closer inspection we noticed that it was extremely interesting to play and “gripping” to listen to.
We invited the musicologist and composer Rolf Straver to research it for us. We had many questions, such as
What do the texts on the cover of the score mean? (below)
What were the Dukaten Concerts at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna? The entry ticket was one ducat for a series of 6 concerts. How much is that worth today? Was it open to everyone?
On which occasion was the Grand Potpourri National performed? Since it was a medley of national anthems, could it have been a concert for diplomats and ambassadors?
Has this work ever been recorded?
How did the two musicians compose this piece? Was this common practice, i.e. to collaborate on a composition?
What are the names of the other national anthems?
Rolf visited us the evening of Friday 12th March 2010. We played the piece for him and asked for feedback. Was it interesting? “Yes!” he replied. He was not bored for a single second. The transitions from piece to piece via modulations and cadenzas were very exciting.
As a guitarist, he observed that the guitar part was extremely difficult. Instead of using a “terz guitar” which is smaller than normal guitars, the guitarist uses a capo on the third fret. There are many high notes which require playing on the body of the guitar — not an easy task.
Rolf also noticed that the dynamics were written for the softer instruments of the early 19th century. The grand piano is much louder today. I get the hint. Crank down the dynamics for the piano a notch or two.
The next day when we were preparing for a test recording, Robert started playing the last movement of the potpourri. I don’t know the name of this anthem. But it sounds and feels like a theme from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.” And that’s what I call it.