The Polish-born composer Piotr Moss studied with Grażyna
Bacewicz and also with Penderecki. He completed his tutelage
under Nadia Boulanger in Paris, remaining in France and becoming
a citizen of the country in 1984. He has received many honours
and awards from his adopted homeland as well as from Poland.
The three compositions in this Dux release span the years 2000-2007.
Meditation and Psalm, for choir and orchestra, was a
commission from the Berlin Choral Society for its centenary
celebrations, and was premiered at the Berlin Philharmonie when
Polish forces performed. It’s certainly not an obviously
celebratory work, as such, revealing layers of troubled depth
throughout. It opens portentously with an orchestral introduction
building up to choral shouts, and plenty of percussive interjections.
The tenor here is taut, terse and changeable - deeply unsettled.
Even quieter passages are punctuated by crushing orchestral
and choral interjections. Elements of plainchant are hinted
at, but the music remains quite rigorous in its avoidance of
an easy trajectory. One detects Penderecki’s influence
form time to time; also, strangely an ambivalence and a questioning
element. At the end the music remains unresolved.
Voyage, a concerto for two harps and orchestra, was written
in 2000. Shard-like motifs, curt but colouristic, proliferate.
Occasionally the music here too is portentous but this aspect
is outweighed by the brief but strongly lyric interludes, forests
of growth and renewal. I find this piece quite filmic - it’s
no surprise to learn that Moss has written for film and television
as he has the gift of concisely summoning up a sense of place.
The solo harps are hard worked and they manage to project timbre
and colour very adeptly. Dance elements are present too - a
kind of waltz emerges - and a kind of Trauermarch too.
Moss is also fond of a kind of half-slapstick orchestral whoop
- he deploys it for maximal effect here.
The final work is Cinq tableaux de Caspar David Friedrich,
for orchestra, written in 2007. This takes five of Friedrich’s
paintings and spins tone poems on their essence. The titles
of the poems will give one a clue; Fog; Tree with Ravens; Wanderer
above the Sea of Fog; Woman before the Setting Sun; and Abbey
in the Oak Forest. In the first, tension is subtly built up
via plenty of canny dynamic changes whilst the second feels
like a filmic chase scene; lower brass glowers, and the winds
- curiously elegant - sway. Moss quotes Schubert in the central
panel where a waltz gets progressively more ghostly. Pathos
is adeptly conveyed in the lonely fourth painting - the colours
here are truly atmospheric, textures too. The final panel plays
on Abbey bell themes. There’s more than a touch of the
Grand Guignol about Moss’s writing, and just a hint -
I may be wrong - of sarcasm about the whole thing.
Moss is an excellent orchestrator, and summons up visions and
vistas with immediacy and a degree of clarity. His film and
TV work have clearly prepared him for immediacy of expression.
He is a sophisticated composer but not one, on this showing,
interested in obscurity. He wants to convey mood, and feeling,
and that he does very well indeed.