MOSZKOWSKI: Piano Concerto in E Major / From Foreign Lands (Antoni Wit/ Beata Jankowska/ Markus Pawlik/ Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553989)
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Piano Concerto in Emajor, Op. 59
Suite for Orchestra,"from Foreign Lands", Op, 23
Moritz Moszkowski was born in Breslau on 23rd August, 1854, and beganhis music studies in Dresden, eventually moving to Berlin to continue hiseducation with Kullak and W??erst. He was an extraordinary pianist who touredextensively throughout Europe. His debut in Berlin at the age of nineteen wasremarkable, prompting Franz Liszt to write admiringly of him. FrederickKitchener witnessed one of Moszkowski's recitals in England. He reported that"the playing of Moszkowski was beautiful playing; there was no attempt toastonish... a musician, not an acrobat was at the piano". According to EmilLiebling, "considered as a pianist, Moszkowski is hors de concours...
Everything was done musically and with the utmost ease". Highlyinfluential as a teacher, Moszkowski taught at the Kullak Conservatory inBerlin and later in Paris. Many Americans flocked to Europe to study with himand illustrious pianists such as Josef Hofmann were among his pupils. For afigure of such professional stature, his personal life in later years was lessfortunate. After an unsuccessful marriage to the pianist Cecile Chaminade'ssister, Georgette, he moved to Paris with his two children, a daughter, whodied shortly after their arrival in Paris, and a son. Through some unfortunatecarelessness Moritz Moszkowski lost the copyrights to his compositions duringthe wars of 1914, and eventually died from a painful throat illness in near povertyin Paris on 4th March, 1925.
Today, Moszkowski is best remembered for a few delightful piano pieces -the Etudes, Opu, 72, Etineelles (Sparks), Opus 36, No. 6,popularised by Hofmann and Horowitz, and his Spanish Dances, Opus 12,for piano duet. Yet he composed operas, ballets, orchestral suites, songs,concertos, and chamber music, almost all of which remain forgotten. No properre-assessment of Moszkowski's compositions has taken place nor has anyonewritten a biography of this once influential teacher, pianist and composer.
Most writers on music, indeed, continue to repeat the pejorative term"salon composer" when commenting on his work, an unfortunate state ofaffairs. Much of Moszkowski's music is written for the piano. These works aregenerally miniatures, always well-crafted and always very pianistic. His earlysong cycles show an affinity for the voice and are written in a powerful stylethat suggests the language of Brahms. The orchestral suites show him to be abrilliant orchestrator, with a strong grasp of polyphony. The operas andballets show a keen understanding of theatrical music and have been performedallover the world, while the piano and violin concertos are brilliantshowpieces, full of delightful melodies. Yet, despite all this musicalevidence, Moszkowski is not accorded much attention and is often consideredlittle more than a footnote in musical history. The Piano Concerto in Emajor, Opus 59 is one of the extraordinary examples of romantic works in thisgenre. According to the critic Edward Lippman this: "is the work of a manwho not only was familiar with innumerable concerti written over a period ofmore than a century, but also was in command of every trick of the trade".
Moszkowski completed the concerto in 1898, dedicating it "?áMonsieur Josef Casimir Hofmann", a player who was to become one of thegreatest piano virtuosi of all time. The concerto is scored for the usualwoodwind, brass, and strings, but in addition, it makes occasional use of atriangle and a harp. Somewhat unusual for a piano concerto is the key of Emajor, and the fact that there are four movements instead of three. At thebeginning of this century, the Moszkowski concerto was very popular, appearingfrequently in the orchestral programmes of all the major orchestras of theworld, and championed by most of the major piano virtuosos of the time. Whenanother famous piano virtuoso, Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, toured the UnitedStates during the 1906-7 season performing the concerto, Hobbard William Harrisprovided the following musical analysis of the work (which became the standardanalysis for this work, reprinted in concert programmes for the next severaldecades):
"The first movement is a brilliant composition, opening with whatmay he taken as its principal theme, inasmuch as it furnishes most of thematerial for the development, and also reappears in the last movement as aclimax to the whole work. The announcement of this resolute subject (by theflutes and oboes accompanied lightly by other woodwind, and deeper strings) isfollowed by a short solo cadenza, after which the unfolding of the musicalpicture begins. As this proceeds several subsidiary melodies come to notice,prominent among them being one which (while hinted at before) does not assume itsformal shape until given out, grazioso, by the pianoforte alone following ashort upward chromatic scale passage. This graceful subject aslo figure,conspicuously in the development which, after passing through a succession ofinteresting stages, culminates finally in a rousing climax.
The second movement is an eloquent, nocturne-?¡like effusion, of whichthe principal thematic element is the expressive subject given out softly atthe commencement by the clarinet, and bassoons, staccato, and the strings, pizzicato- this being taken up shortly and carried on by the solo instrument. Anagreeably contrasting intermediary section follows, after which the expressivefirst theme returns - now in the harp and strings against flowing figurationsin the solo instrument. Lastly a short free conclusion passage leads us intothe third movement. The Vivace is a lively, sparkling composition inMoszkowski's characteristically brilliant manner, and commences with thestatement of a nimble running theme by the solo instrument. After thisvivacious subject and its derivatives have been worked over briefly anotherbuoyant theme comes to notice in the flutes and clarinets, over a strummingguitar-like accompaniment in the pianoforte. The development from here runsmainly on this theme, leading finally to a short cantabile passage for the soloinstrument (unaccompanied), following which the movement proceeds quickly to adashing conclusion.
The fourth and last movement opens with a short flourishing introductorypassage which leads to the statement of a resolute theme by the soloinstrument. After this has been developed at considerable length the pianoforteintroduces a contrasting theme of flowing character, to which the clarinetattaches itself shortly. Presently the development of the resolute openingtheme is resumed, leading to the entrance of still another subject, given outsofty but decidedly by the clarinet and the violas, and worked up forthwith inalternation and combination with the resolute opening theme. The flowing secondtheme returns, the movement mounting thence to a climax, at the pinnacle ofwhich the resolute opening theme of the first movement reappears in enlargedrhythm."
The six characteristic pieces Aus aller Herren Lander ('FromForeign Lands'), Opus 23, were originally composed for piano duet and werepublished in 1884. In the same year, Moszkowski also published them in anorchestral arrangement, and they became an instant favourite on concertprogrammes all over the world. The six miniatures are dance pieces, eachrepresenting a different country, and in the original four-hand piano versionare ordered: Russian, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian and Hungarian. On thisrecording, the suite is organized as follows Russian, Italian, German, Spanish,Polish and Hungarian. The opening piece is a dreamy Ross