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
rec. March 2009 and May 2010 (Meditation and Psalm ), Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert
Hall, Cultural Centre in Katowice
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.
Moss wants to convey mood and feeling, and he does these things very well indeed.