Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836) was one of the most influential pianist composers of the early 19th Century – no mean feat at a time when figures such as Dussek (her teacher), Hummel, Field, Kalkbrenner, Cramer, Moscheles and last but not least Beethoven dominated the field. A field also dominated by men. Her 114 Études de difficultés progressives of 1816 exerted a considerable influence over composers such as Chopin, Mendelssohn (brother and sister) and the Schumanns – Robert and Clara. Montgeroult was also a regular duo partner with Viotti, the foremost violinist-composer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They toured far and wide over Europe. She also partnered with Kreutzer and Baillot. Of her nine Piano Sonatas, the 6th from 1800 features a violin accompaniment in the same way as Dussek’s ‘Sonatas for keyboard with violin’. This is a work of restless energy and daring harmonies. Montgeroult had a narrow escape from the guillotine in Paris as she was married to an imprisoned Austrian nobleman. Her skill at improvising on a revolutionary song won her freedom.
Sophie Rosa and Ian Buckle have curated a fascinating recital that partners Montgeroult’s sonata (receiving its world premier recording) with her duo partner Viotti’s 10th sonata, and the precocious F minor sonata by the 14 year old Felix Mendelssohn. Their recital concludes with Weber’s short and sparkling 2nd sonata written with gifted amateur musicians in mind.