“Thalberg is not only the premier pianist of the world, he is also an extremely distinguished composer.” Hector BerliozSigismund Thalberg (1812 – 1871) was born in Switzerland, most probably the illegitimate son of a Prince and a Baroness. He gave his debut in London at the age of 14 and after that performed regularly in Vienna. Mendelssohn, Chopin and the young Clara Wieck (later Schumann) rave about his technical perfection and skill. And they are all regarded as some of the best pianists ever themselves. Leading a virtuoso’s life, he toured all over the world and earned very good money. The typical touring schedule of a superstar of the times would be about 300 concerts in a year, when overseas.
Thalberg wrote heaps of virtuoso piano music, but also many songs and chamber music, and at least two operas.
He was born in the same year as Liszt. Troughout their careers, they were always compared to each other, with Thalberg most surprisingly often seen as the better one. Mendelssohn wrote:
“Thalberg, with his composure, and within his more restricted sphere, is more nearly perfect as a real virtuoso; and after all this is the standard by which Liszt must also be judged, for his compositions are inferior to his playing, and, in fact, are calculated solely for virtuosi.”
Most people still have heard of Liszt. What on earth happened to make us forget Thalberg so completely?