One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati







CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Sigismond THALBERG (1812-1871)
Fantaisie sur des thèmes de l’opéra Moise de G. Rossini, Op. 33 (1837) [15:26]
Fantaisie sur des motifs de La Donna del Lago, Op. 40 (1840) [15:30]
Douze Etudes, Op. 26 (1837/8) [36:42]
Stefan Irmer (piano).
rec. Ackerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster, 23-25 June 2008.
Experience Classicsonline

Geneva-born Sigismond Thalberg is possibly best known for his rivalry with Liszt, and his ‘three-handed’ effect. The latter involves the melody being heard in the middle register with supporting bass and upper-line decoration both in simultaneous evidence. My own personal first encounter with him came in the form of Harold C. Schonberg’s book on The Great Pianists. Actual recordings of Thalberg’s music are few and far between, however. One can only hope that MDG’s efforts will bear further fruit.
The Fantasy on Themes from Rossini’s Moses, Op. 33 uses the chorus and quartet “La dolce aurora” from Act I and the prayer “Dal tu stellato soglio” from Act IV in combination with Thalberg’s original material. The piece is divided into two parts, the first markedly freer than the second. Stefan Irmer’s strength is, perhaps surprisingly in this music, with the lyric. Thus his expositions of the themes evince real strength, as if he is trying to make us aware of the generative potentials of the motifs. Irmer’s technique is exemplary, too, both in managing the sheer volume of notes on the page and in delivering filigree that seems to originate straight from the Bellini/Chopin axis. The three-handed effect is present, alongside many virtuoso moments, but the prevailing impression is of a gentle lyricism imbued with utter respect for the music the composer is paraphrasing. You can see an excerpt of the score of the Moise Fantasy on the Wikipedia article on Thalberg. It gives an idea as to the ‘blackness’ of the score. There are other versions of this piece – Nicolosi on Naxos and Robert Cappello on Danacord and Mykola Suk on TNC, but it is difficult not to feel fully satisfied by Irmer’s approach.
The other Fantasy here is on motifs from another Rossini opera, La Donna del Lago. It is fascinating to go back to the original - I used the Muti recording on Philips Duo 473 307-2, by the way - and then to sit back and enjoy Thalberg’s pyrotechnics. Although the first five minutes of the fantasy is basically Thalberg, it is “informed” by Elena’s cavatina “O mattutini albori”, a theme which is them explicitly explored in the later parts of the fantasy. The Act I quintet “Crudele sospetto” leads to the famous “Coro del Bardi” (“Già un raggio forier”). Here Irmer’s statements of the themes can be rather direct - try just after the six-minute mark, where the left-hand accompaniment could have been subtler, more in the background. However, there remain huge amounts to enjoy. If the Moses Fantasy is clearly the greater piece, the Donna del Lago Fantasy is certainly worth hearing. Intriguingly, there is a recording of this work played in piano duo form on an all-Thalberg disc on Hungaroton (HCD32154) which I have yet to hear.
It is a good idea to split the twelve Etudes into two sets of six - they were originally published like this, anyway - and separate them with a Fantasy. The Etudes are fine and interesting pieces, but they are not Chopin or Liszt. Each of the first six tackles a particular technical problem, while the second half of the set is more experimental. Irmer does not seem to balk at any of the challenges Thalberg sets. None of the first six are slower than Allegro moderato. The finger-twisting of No. 5 (B minor) is supremely negotiated by Irmer, who also projects the mood of the storm-tossed No. 6 (B flat minor) excellently. Irmer sees “the emancipation of sound from manual strictures” as a precursor of similar techniques found in Fauré and Debussy; tremolo forms the shimmering basis of No. 8 in C - Irmer laudably decides not to over-pedal. The Lento tenth Etude is a dream that owes much to Liszt’s Liebesträume - although I doubt Thalberg would thank me much for saying so. The warmth of A flat major suffuses the penultimate Etude before the final, F major, Etude opens out the sound-world to encompass grandeur.
A complete list of Thalberg’s works with dates is available here, although the dates do not always accord with the MDG documentation. For instance, the Moise Fantasy is listed as from 1839.
This is a major release in many ways, and an entirely laudable one in every way.
Colin Clarke


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.