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Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Pieces for Piano Duet

Deutsche Reigen, Op.25 [14:45]
Deux Morceaux, Op. 43 [9:28]
Polnische Volkstänze, Op. 55 [15:19]
Aus Aller Herren Länder, Op. 23 [17:58]
Neue Spanische Tänze, Op. 65 [13:25]
Ulrich Koella, Gérard Wyss (piano)
rec. Studio 2, Bayerischen Rundfunks, Munich, 10-22 Nov 1997, 8 Dec 1998. DDD
TUDOR 7060 [71:37]

Of Polish family, born in Breslau, Moszkowski received his musical training in Dresden and Berlin. He went on to be famous as a teacher, a touring pianist and conductor - he appeared regularly in late Victorian London - and a composer. Though he wrote an opera, a violin concerto and a number of symphonic works, only his writing for piano – for solo piano, for four hands and for piano and orchestra (notably the Piano Concerto in E major, Op 59) – has attracted much attention in recent years.

Ulrich Koella and Gérard Wyss here present a selection of the works for piano duet. The selection doesn’t include the work in this medium which did most for Moszkowski’s contemporary fame – the opus 12 set of five Spanish dances. It does, however, include their successor, in the form of the three further dances which make up op. 65. These dances, like their predecessors, are as much generally exotic and sensuous as specifically ‘Spanish’, though the closing Habanera is a partial exception; they make enjoyable and colourful listening.

All of the music on this CD has charm and elegance and none of it seeks any great profundity of feeling. The romantic interest in folk dance underlies most of the work here, but in Moszkowski the folk dance has been made thoroughly polite, made entirely fit for the salon. These are folk dances too refined for dust or sweat. Even when his dances have titles like ‘Deutsche Reigen’ (‘German Round Dances’) there is nothing remotely rustic about them. Of the Deutsche Reigen, No. 3 has a particularly ingratiating charm and No. 4 is both attractively vivacious and formally satisfying.

Aus Aller Herren Länder also exists in an orchestral version – a recording of which is available on Naxos, played by the Polish National Radio Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit. It is made up of six pieces each named after a country: Russia, Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy and Hungary. The lively saltarello which ‘represents’ Italy is particularly striking, though the expressive ‘German’ andante is also rather fine in a different way.

The set of four Polish Folk Dances, op. 55, is unsurprisingly rather nostalgic in tone, especially in the second of the two mazurkas; the closing krakowiak is a gem, played here with persuasively dancing phrasing and rhythm.

Brahms and Chopin are informing presences in this music. Moszkowski is steeped in both German and Polish traditions of pianism and from them produces music for four hands which has a mildly distinctive flavour of its own.

Koella and Wyss are both experienced performers in chamber music, and both are well-known as accompanists of lieder. They are, in short, experienced team players, which shows in their performances on this CD. Each takes the role of primo piano in different parts of the programme. The often considerable difficulties of Moszkowski’s writing evidently hold no fears for them and anyone with an interest in this repertoire will surely enjoy this CD.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 



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