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Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Trois Morceaux op.34 (1884), no.1 Valse [7:55]
Frühling: Fünf Stücke op.57 (1896), no.4, Zephyr [3:28]; no.5, Liebeswalzer [5:31]
Quinze Études de Virtuosité op.72 (1903), no.13, Étude in A flat minor [4:01]
Sechs Fantasiestücke op.52 (1893), no.3, Zwiegesang (Duo) [2:26]; no.4, Die Jongleurin [1:44]
Huit Morceaux Caractéristiques op.36, (1886), no.4 En Automne [2:38]; no.6 Étincelles [2:50]
Drei Klavierstücke in Tanzform op.17, (1878) no.1, Polonaise [8:48]
Zwei Klavierstücke op.45 (1888), no.2 Guitarre [3:21]
Caprice espagnol op. 37 (1885) [6:58]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Isolde’s Death Scene from Tristan und Isolde (1914, arr. Moszkowski) [7:58]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffmann (c.1895, arr. Moszkowski) [7:30]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen: Chanson bohème (arr. Moszkowski) [7:07]
Etsuko Hirose (piano)
rec. 2019, Église Évangélique, Saint-Marcel, Paris
DANACORD DACOCD866 [72:15]

Wrocław-born composer pianist Moritz Moszkowski is one of those composers who is popular up to a point; piano duettists still play his Spanish dances and a choice selection of solo works appear on recital programmes every now and again, usually at the encore stage, but little is heard beyond that. Considering that he wrote 97 opuses, many consisting of several pieces, plus works without opus numbers and many transcriptions, there is still scope to explore his output. He hasn't been ignored by any means; in the LP era Michael Ponti, Ilan Vered and Hans Kann recorded recitals and quite a few can be found on CD nowadays. Seta Tanyel's three CDs, originally recorded for Collins Classics, can be found on Hyperion Helios (CDH55141-43) and is probably the most comprehensive survey but there are two discs by Ami Fujiwara (Regulus RGCD-1002/3) that contain some rarities.

In her notes to the present album, Etsuko Hirose gives us a brief biographical sketch and goes on to tell of listening to the recordings of great pianists like Hofmann, Friedman, Rakhmaninoff and Horowitz. Of course, there was some Moszkowski in the repertoire of all these greats (and many others like Levitski, Hambourg, Joyce, Bolet and Wild) and in a way this recital is an homage to them, containing as it does all the repertoire that they loved - Die Jongleurin, Caprice espagnol, Etincelles etc. Indeed, the only other familiar solo item by Moszkowski which doesn't make an appearance here is the famous Sérénade.

I really enjoyed this album; for me it is difficult to not enjoy Moskowski. The music is fresh, joyous and brimming with ideas, elegance, charm and vivacious and spirited virtuosity; it is also beautifully written for the instrument (Paderewski said that “after Chopin, Moskowski best understands how to write for the piano). Hirose has also planned this recital well. The big E major Valse is a perfect introduction to the Moszkowski's world, with its broad melodies and elegant insouciance, so typical of Golden Age concert waltzes (Dohnanyi's arrangement of Delibes Naila Waltz or Emil von Sauer's Echo de Wien spring readily to mind). This leads straight into the first of three transcriptions recorded here, the modest but effective arrangement of Offenbach's famous Barcarolle. At the other end of the recital is a short and exciting Spanish collection: his cheerful Guitarre with its cheery serenade and arpeggios imitating a strummed guitar, the whirlwind Caprice espagnole, a fearsome study in repeated notes and interlocking chords and a favourite of the great Josef Hofmann. Bringing the recital to a rousing conclusion is his exciting transcription of Bizet's Chanson bohème, the inspiration for Horowitz's Carmen variations.

In between these, the familiar is mixed up with the rarities. Aside from the effervescent and vivacious Die Jonglerin (Juggleress) and Etincelles (Sparks) there is his passionate homage to Autumn, En Automne, and his marvellous transcription of Isolde's death, the final scene from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, considered by Earl Wild to be superior to Liszt's version. Among the rarities are his tender duet, Zwiegesang from the same set as his Juggleress, Zephyr, a depiction of the God of the West wind and the Polonaise in D. Both of the latter were recorded on piano rolls; the Polonaise was laid down by no less than Leopold Godowsky (his version, which includes small cuts, can be found on DalSegno DSPRCD 051 (review). Prior to this version Zephyr doesn't appear to have been commercially recorded since Gertrude Meller's 1925 Homochord disc (not transferred to CD).

To have all these favourites and more on one CD is a genuine pleasure and to have them in such fine performances only adds to that. Hirose has a grand style, technique to spare and a real feel for the gentle rubato that brings an extra dimension to this music. In the Bizet transcription she deftly judges the increasing pace as the dance builds to its wild climax and she doesn't shy from the dizzying fireworks at the end. Listening to her play the enthralling A flat minor étude from the set of 15 études de virtuosité makes one wish for the whole set from this Ms Hirose. I shall return to this disc again and again and look forward to whatever else this engaging and enterprising young pianist brings to our attention.

A joyous collection of dazzling piano miniatures.

Rob Challinor

Previous review: John France



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