Piotr MOSS (b.1949)
Meditation and Psalm, for choir and orchestra (2001) [12:57]
Voyage, concerto for two harps and orchestra (2000) [24:35]
Cinq tableaux de Caspar David Friedrich, for orchestra (2007) [25:11]
Grażyna Strzeszewska and Anna Sikorzak-Olek (harps)
Polish Radio Choir in Cracow/Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice/Michał Klauza
rec. March 2009 and May 2010 (Meditation and Psalm ), Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Cultural Centre in Katowice
No texts
DUX 0820 [70:58]
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.
Jonathan Woolf
Moss wants to convey mood and feeling, and he does these things very well indeed.