Piano Virtuoso

At the end-of-the-18th-century Vienna there was no shortage of qualified pianists: apart from W. A. Mozart and L. v. Beethoven they include L. Koželuh, J. N. Hummel, J. L. Dussek and J. Eberl.

When Woelfl came to Vienna in 1795 he was recognized as a pupil of Mozart by the clarity of his touch and the brilliancy of his virtuosity. He added wide-ranging chords benefitted by the enormous range of his hands (thirteenth) and third and octave passages. Furthermore he developed a new jumping technique (the so called “Woelfl-Jump” s. “Woelfl as composer”). This technique led straight to the etude “La Campanella” by F. Liszt. On top of all that he held his own in the field of improvising which then was a chief category. This can be proved by his competition with Beethoven (s. “Bio”).

In German musical centres, Paris and London he was adored as the leading pianist of his time. In the history of 19th century piano music he is claimed to be the role model of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Franz Liszt. Both are proven to have known Woelfl’s piano works. In British musical history Woelfl plays an eminent role as founder of the English school of pianists. Ph. Cipriani H. Potter (1792-1871), an early pupil who stayed with him for five years, claimed that he learned everything he knew of Woelfl. Potter became a piano teacher with the Royal Academy of Music and its principal in 1832. There he educated numerous English pianists according to Woelfl’s specifications.

The “Méthode de Pianoforte” Op. 56 by Woelfl proves him to have been a strict teacher who led his pupils to virtuous piano play by his didactics.