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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Complete music for piano four hands
Domenico Monaco, Michele Solimando (piano four hands)
rec. Auditorium, ‘U Giordano’ Conservatory, Rodi Garganico (Foggia), Italy, September 2013
Contents list at end of review
BRILLANT CLASSICS 94835 [3 CDs: 183.50]

The name Moszkowski is little known today although in his lifetime he was a remarkable and celebrated musician. The documentation with this 3 CD set is unhelpful with little or no detail about his life - you will need Wikipedia or similar for that. He was a German-Jewish composer, pianist and teacher.

He completed his studies in Berlin and soon became a teacher at the Berlin Conservatory. His success began in 1873 when he made his debut as a pianist, and soon his reputation spread. Two years later he would play his piano concerto on two pianos with Franz Liszt. He toured Europe as pianist and conductor and married the younger sister of Cécile Chaminade.

In the mid-1880s, Moszkowski began to suffer from a neurological problem in his arm which more and more impeded his capacity to perform recitals. Instead he concentrated on composing, teaching and conducting. In London, in 1887, he had the chance to introduce many of his orchestral pieces. He was awarded honorary membership by the Royal Philharmonic Society. Divorced, but wealthy and famous, he settled with his daughter in Paris. Amongst his students were Thomas Beecham, Vlado Perlemuter and Wanda Landowska. By 1908, his health was failing and his popularity waning. He became reclusive, gave up teaching and sold his copyrights; then invested unwisely and was reduced to poverty. He died from stomach cancer in 1925.

I first came to know about Moritz Moszkowski from a 1957 Decca recording made by Ataúlfo Argenta of Spanish-influenced music. This included Moszkowski’s Five Spanish Dances probably his most famous composition. Indeed these dances open CD 1 in this collection. All five have strong, catchy melodies and exotic rhythms. They are played carefully and with due diligence but not with an abundance of élan and joie de vivre to make these sunny pieces really come alive. The Three New Spanish Dances that close CD 1, composed some fourteen years later, are clearly more mature, more interesting and more complex. Additionally, CD 1 has the 1879 Spanish Album in which the duo do seem to be more at home. These four pieces all have charm especially the Vivace assai, an essay in coruscating brilliance. The Four Polish Folkdances include two Mazurkas, one Polonaise and a concluding Krakowiak which evokes horses’ rhythms and military precision. The first Allegro Mazurka mixes serenity with fieriness; the second boasts a winsome delicate melody while the Polonaise has a heart-moving melody.
 
Having listened thus far I was reminded of my long-held opinion that without imagination, some music, I feel, is far better left in original multi-coloured orchestral dress. That said, I do appreciate that such pieces written for performance on a single piano might encourage more performances in salon or at home, and therefore the possibility of more revenue.

CD 2 commences with Moszkowski’s Five Waltzes Op. 8 of 1875. These are roughly in Viennese style. The opening Allegro moderato has a clanging opening softened by a more lyrical second part. The Pesante e lugubre second is a slow sad waltz. The third, Allegro grazioso, is written in canon, one part imitating the other; it has elegance and gentility. The charming fourth Vivace assai has sensuality and grace. Concluding the set, is a waltz marked Pomposo ed energico that duly lives up to that description. The following set of five pieces are the Deutsche Reigen, most are reasonably pleasing if slight. The standout item and probably of the whole of this second CD is No. 4 Allegro animato. It is a fast-moving, merry virtuoso tarantella with a really catchy melody. The ‘Tarantelle’ of the Klavierstücke Op. 33 is equally brilliant if not so memorable. This set of four pieces includes a child-like march, a gentle ‘Humoreske’ and an evocative ‘Spinnerlied’, a charming little piece on the theme of the work of a spinner-girl who is, perhaps, day-dreaming. The eight little miniatures that comprise Le maître et l’élève that close CD 2 are quite charming. They were constructed over a five-note accompaniment. They range from a brisk ‘Prologue’ to yet another ‘Tarantelle’ with an engaging ‘Moment musicale’, a nice lyrical ‘Mélodie’ and an affectionate ‘Berceuse’.

CD 3 opens with the 3 Stücke Op.11. The opening marked Polonaise: Brioso ed energico is pleasantly showy and reminiscent of Chopin. The middle piece is a lovely waltz, quite elaborate and spanning a number of moods. The concluding item is a short vivacious Hungarian Dance. The nine numbers that comprise Aus aller Herren Ländern (From Foreign Lands) are mostly memorable and the best selections on this third disc. A Russian Allegretto opens with a rather doleful mood. From Germany there is a quite lovely lyrical Andante which may bring Brahms to mind while Spain has a brief extrovert piece in Moszkowski’s usual vibrant rhythms and colours. The fourth piece from Poland is marked Allegro con fuoco is lively and in mazurka style. It is intricate and complex but keeps the ear attentive throughout its six-minute span. Italy has yet another colourful and jubilant tarantella while the finale, Hungary’s piece, marked Molto Allegro, is redolent of gypsy festivities. The Cortège may remind one of the style of Grieg. It was performed in its orchestral dress by von Bülow. The partnering Gavotte is more Viennese in idiom. Finally the third CD closes with the seven-piece Kaleidoskop conceived in a style reminiscent of Schumann. The opening item is marked Molto allegro e con fuoco and is very emphatic and staccato. The Presto that follows is a somewhat dazzling Mendelssohn-like confection while the third is a sentimental lyrical Andante. The following Allegro moderato e grazioso has grace and melody, and the next Allegro con spirito is playful with a staccato opening that might remind one of a Morse code message. The fifth, Mesto, has a formal charm while the concluding Tempo di Valse is an amiable little gem in the Viennese style.

A pleasant collection of charming if slight piano pieces. Sweet, but not to be absorbed at one sitting.

Ian Lace
 
Contents List
CD 1 [57.17]
Five Spanish Dances, Op. 12 (1876) [13.52]
Spanish Album, Op. 21 (1879) [12.49]
Four Polish Folkdances Op. 55 (1897) [16.04]
Three New Spanish Dances Op. 65 (1900) [13.50]
CD 2 [62.37]
Five Waltzes Op. 8 (1875) [14.53]
Five German Dances Op. 25 (1880) [18.28]
Four Piano Works Op. 33 (1883) [14.21]
Le maître et l’élève Op. 96 (1920) [13.53]
CD 3 [63.56]
Three Works Op. 11 (1876) [13.17]
Aus aller Herren Ländern (From Foreign Lands) Op. 23 (1879) [22.13]
Cortège et Gavotte Op. 43 (1887) [10.07]
Kaleidoskop Op. 74 (1904) [17.30]