János Gáspár Mertz, Johann Kaspar in German, was born in 1806 in Bratislava in the then Austria-Hungary in a very poor family. At a young age he learnt himself to play flute and guitar. He gave music lessons to supplement the poor family income. Gradually his guitar playing drew the attention of the audiences until he gained access to the Viennese cultural elite after a successful concert in 1840.
He wanted to extend his success with a grand tour that brought him in Austria, Poland and Russia. Quite an endeavour in those days. On this tour he met his later wife, the pianist Josephine Plantin. They got married, managed a music school in Vienna and performed together. The piano music that Mertz heard his wife play would clearly influence Mertz’ style of composition, that is quite pianistic indeed.
Mertz was a very productive composer with 100 opus numbers and a large number of non-categorised works. Striking in his work is the balance between virtuosity and lyricism, and the mostly pianistic accompaniment patterns.
I like to play Mertz’s music. So, I made quite a few recordings of it. Among them are Nachtviole Op. 2, Nocturnes Op. 4, the pieces from Schule für die Gitarre and a number of arrangements from Kukuk oder Musikalische Rundschau.
For a change, I play a few pieces on my cedar Contreras study guitar that appeared to be built in a guitar shop in Valencia. Additionally, you will find tunings of A=440 Hz and A=432 Hz.