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Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854 – 1925)
Concert Study in G flat major, Op. 24 No. 1 [6:36]
Morceaux caractéristiques (8), Op. 36 No. 6, Étincelles. Allegro scherzando [2:33]
Quinze Études de Virtuosité, Op. 72 No.12 Presto [1:51]
Quinze Études de Virtuosité, Op. 72 No. 13, Molto animato [4:22]
Spanish Dances, Op. 12 [14:49]
Album Espagnol, Op. 21 [12:16]
Moszkowski: Morceaux (4), Op. 82 [19:51]
rec. live, 20 - 27 September 2019, Concert Hall of the Artur Malawski Podkarpcka Philharmonic, Rzeszów, Poland.
The Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music 2019 - Prize Winners
DUX 1655 [62:27]

To begin with, I must say that I’m very fond of Moszkowski’s music; it is full of good tunes, is frequently cheerful and generally bounces along very nicely. Here we have a selection of his works from the Stanisław Moniuszko International Competition of Polish Music 2019 for assorted forces.
First up is a finger twisting concert study played by Pavel Dombrovsky. This is a typical example of Moszkowski’s composing style, well-constructed, with memorable tunes and plenty of opportunities for the soloist to show their virtuosity. The opening of the work is appropriately joyful and leads nicely into a more restrained central section before the return of more taxing music to complete the piece. The playing throughout is excellent and makes me wish that the piece were longer.

What follows is one of Moszkowski’s most well-known works – Étincelles (“Sparks”), made famous by performances by Horowitz. This is a splendid little work, really cheerful, and here, when played by Daniel Ziomko, the jollity is immediately apparent. This is a real earworm for me, so I’ll be listening to this in my head for weeks!

Moszkowski’s “15 virtuoso études” have enjoyed a few outings on CD, and again, Horowitz played the sixth of the set but here we have the contrasted twelfth and thirteenth from the collection, played by Adam Piórkowski and then Eryk Parchański. The twelfth is a super quick and again very memorable little piece which whizzes along very rapidly, whereas the thirteenth is more restrained. The opening of this étude is fast and quite Chopinesque but the central part is quieter and has an odd, yearning quality to it. Both works are played wonderfully and I am particularly fond of the 1thirteenth, as it is truly memorable in character.

Moszkowski’s other most famous works are the “Spanish Dances” published in piano duet form as Op.12. These have been arranged numerous times, for orchestra, violin and piano and also for piano solo and are deservedly famous in whatever version you encounter them. It’s hard to believe that Moszkowski never visited Spain (as far as I can tell), as the music sounds very Spanish in flavour. Throughout, the Anduriuti-Shemchuk Piano Duo maintains an atmosphere of spontaneity and joyfulness and they play magnificently well. The first of the set is a joyous ‘Allegro brioso’ – perhaps played a little more slowly than the other performances I have heard, but this allows the details to emerge and I actually think this tempo works splendidly for this piece. The slower, minor key section is especially well done with some lovely flexibility of tempo as the themes interact with one another. There is a palpable sense of regret at the opening of the second of the set but this is quickly dispelled as the work reaches the central section (about 1’30’’). The third of the set contains no such pathos, it’s just a rather splendid, merry little work. The fourth continues in a more stylish vein, with some rather more agitated music in the middle, but the whole piece holds together superbly. The final piece from the set is unremittingly cheerful, with happy arabesques bouncing about in the treble and some spirited accompaniment.

The “Album Espagnol”, published at a later date as Op.21 and again for piano duet, was perhaps Moszkowski’s attempt to continue basking in the success of the Spanish Dances. However, these consist of only four pieces rather than five. The opening ‘Allegro moderato’ is extremely joyful and full of sparkling wit and clever writing and is marvellously played by the Novi Piano Duo. This will definitely put a smile on your face as its sheer exuberance, even in the minor key section in the centre, is contagious. The following ‘Vivace’ is totally over the top and continues in the same amusing and witty path as the preceding piece. The central part is a little less mad but is still very happy before the madness returns to round off the work. Piece no.3 is marked ‘Con moto’ (with movement) and certainly does move. It’s another bouncing little work, full of clever “Spanishisms” (if such a word exists) and some wonderful tunes. The set concludes with a slightly more restrained ‘Moderato e grazioso’ which is full of good cheer and some very Spanish-sounding, melodic writing. It sounds as if it contains elements of a Bolero rhythm, but it is such a mix that it’s hard to pin a specific title on it. There is plenty of virtuosity from both pianists and they both rise perfectly to the challenge, just as they do in the reminder of the set. I have to say that much as I like the Op.12 Spanish Dances, I fractionally prefer these four wonderful little pieces from Op.21 as, if anything, they are even madder than the dances.

To round off this disc, we have the Effimero Duo playing a much later work, published as Op.82 and consisting of four “Morceaux” for piano and violin. The opening piece is, unusually for this composer, slightly melancholy in nature in places but is really rather beautiful and contains some other, happier themes as well. The ending is rather touching and splendidly captured here. The second work is shorter and is a ‘Caprice’ – starting with an almost Bachian opening on solo violin before the piano joins in the fun. The soloists bounce the tunes off one another very well here in a sparkling performance of this work. The Bach-like writing seems to percolate the work, making it have an interesting mixture of styles. The last thirty or so seconds are particularly taxing for the violinist who copes magnificently with the difficulties – until the actual ending which is surprisingly restrained and rather touching. Thirdly, we have a ‘Melodie’ – the second longest piece on the CD at just under six minutes. This is a perfect little song without words, full of interesting melodies and some very heartfelt playing from both participants. There are some difficult double-stopping passages about a minute and a half in, but they are wonderfully played and do not seem to present any problems to the violinist Marta Sikora. The ending of the work is very passionate in character and is perfectly executed. To round off, there is a humorous ‘Humoresque’ which contains lots of happy, witty writing for both instruments and requires considerable virtuosity from both participants. Again, this is stuffed with good tunes, some of which will stick in your head. There are some interesting Spanish hints in this piece as well, which add an interesting element to the work and a tie-in perhaps with the earlier Spanish Dances. About four minutes in, the work almost runs out of steam, with both soloists suddenly stopping and changing gear to a much slower pace – but not for long, as the ending returns to speedy music and a furiously fast conclusion. The Effimero Duo plays extremely well throughout this small set of works; they are perfectly in tune with one another and their music making is brilliant. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this work via this excellent performance.

The sound quality is superb; it’s hard to believe these are live recordings as I can hear very little extraneous noise from the audience. The disc is nicely presented in one of the more environmentally friendly cardboard cases, the cover notes are interesting and chart the composer’s career from highly regarded, wealthy pianist and composer to a poor, sad and lonely death of stomach cancer in Paris. The playing throughout by all participants is brilliant and I hope this disc is successful and inspires them to perform more of this composer’s works, as I for one would like to hear more.

Jonathan Welsh

Pavel Dombrovsky (piano, track 1), Daniel Ziomko (piano, track 2), Adam Piórkowski (piano, track 3), Eryk Parchański (piano, track 4), Anduriuti-Shemchuk Piano Duo (Alina Anduriuti-Shemchuk and Ivan Shemchuk, tracks 5 – 9), Novi Piano Duo (Anna Wielgus and Gregorz Nowak, tracks 10 – 13) and Effimero Duo (Mata Sikora and Itamar Prag, violin and piano, tracks 14 – 17).



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