Sigismond Thalberg (Geneva, Switzerland, January 7, 1812?Posilipo, Naples, Italy, April 27, 1871) was a virtuoso pianist and composer. He was the illegitimate son of Count Moritz Dietrichstein and a Ms. Fortunée Stein, believed by some to be Jewish. Stories were later circulated - perhaps to reinforce his aristocratic demeanour - that his mother was the Viennese Baroness Wetzlar. He studied under Simon Sechter, Carl Czerny and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Thalberg commenced his professional career with concerts at Vienna in 1828 which brought him considerable attention, and by the publication of his Opus 1, Mélanges sur des thèmes d'Euryanthe. In 1835 he began his concert tours, which proved a continual triumph and gained for him high eminence as a pianist. His particular innovation, which greatly impressed his audiences and rivals (including Liszt), was the use of the thumbs of both hands to play inner melodies, giving the impression of a 'third hand'. In the spirit of the time, Thalberg and Liszt engaged in a piano 'duel' in Paris in 1837 (of which Liszt is generally accounted the winner).
In 1855 Thalberg gave a series of concerts in Brazil, visiting the United States the following year. In 1858 he settled at Naples, where he made his permanent home. His wife was a daughter of the famous singer Luigi Lablache. He died at Naples.
Thalberg's published compositions reached opus number 83, to which should be added a number of pieces without opus number, including a piano method. Many of his compositions are fantasies upon themes from operas, outside of which the most notable works include a concerto, concert studies, several caprices and nocturnes, a scherzo, a ballade and a sonata. Although intended principally to display the virtuosity of the executant, those works which are not mere salon music show a genuine musicality, and compositions such as his Piano Trio are more than worthy of the occasional airing. He also wrote an opera of his own, 'Florinda', to a libretto by Eugène Scribe (produced 1851).
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