Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda
Six Nocturnes for Viola and Piano, Op.186
Kalliwoda composed his wonderful Op.186 Six Nocturnes for Viola and Piano at the behest of his publisher C.F. Peters. He sent it to them in 1851, but for some reason, they did not get around to publishing them until thirty years later.
Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda (1801-66 Jan Vaclav Kalivoda in the Czech form) is a name virtually unknown today, except perhaps to violinists. However, he was a well-known and highly respected composer, conductor and soloist during his lifetime. Schumann, among others, held a high opinion of his compositions and he is sometimes spoken of as the link between Beethoven and Schumann. He was born in Prague and studied at the conservatory there. After some years of touring as a concert violinist, he chose permanent employment as conductor of the Donaueschingen Orchestra at the court of Prince Karl Egon II. Thereafter, Kalliwoda devoted what free time he had to composition as a means of supplementing his income and was, for the last 30 years of his life, considered a “house composer” by the publisher C.F. Peters who published all but 60 of his nearly 250 works.
As Nocturnes or night pieces, these are not brilliant virtuoso pieces. However, each of the six takes full advantage of the viola’s sonorities. The writing is expertly executed and the viola, even in its lowest registers, can easily be heard. When played together, they match the length of a sonata and can be performed as such. On the other hand, any one of the six could be used as an encore and two or three could be performed when a shorter program work is required