Johann Kaspar Mertz, Elegie

Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856)


Johann Kaspar Mertz was born in Pressburg (modern Bratislava, Slovakia) and made a career as a soloist on both guitar and flute in Germany and Eastern Europe. Although his guitar compositions are now regarded as some of the finest pieces in the repertoire from the mid-19th century, they were all but forgotten after Mertz’s death, only to be rediscovered in the 1980s. His relatively conservative Romantic style, with a preference for short character pieces, is often compared to that of Felix Mendelssohn. Mertz performed frequently on the 8-string and even 10-string guitar, and many of his works, including Elegie, were originally intended for that instrument. Elegie is reminiscent of a bel canto operatic aria in both style and structure: a dramatic introduction, with ominous dissonances and brilliant arpeggios, leads to a cantabile melody over a simple chordal accompaniment. After an interlude with impassioned rippling arpeggios gradually dying away over a dominant pedal, the cantabile melody is repeated with elegant ornamentation.

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