|About this Recording
8.553989 - MOSZKOWSKI: Piano Concerto in E Major / From Foreign Lands
Moritz Moszkowski was born in Breslau on 23rd August, 1854, and began his music studies in Dresden, eventually moving to Berlin to continue his education with Kullak and Wüerst. He was an extraordinary pianist who toured extensively throughout Europe. His début in Berlin at the age of nineteen was remarkable, prompting Franz Liszt to write admiringly of him. Frederick Kitchener witnessed one of Moszkowski's recitals in England. He reported that "the playing of Moszkowski was beautiful playing; there was no attempt to astonish… a musician, not an acrobat was at the piano". According to Emil Liebling, "considered as a pianist, Moszkowski is hors de concours… Everything was done musically and with the utmost ease". Highly influential as a teacher, Moszkowski taught at the Kullak Conservatory in Berlin and later in Paris. Many Americans flocked to Europe to study with him and illustrious pianists such as Josef Hofmann were among his pupils. For a figure of such professional stature, his personal life in later years was less fortunate. After an unsuccessful marriage to the pianist Cécile Chaminade's sister, Georgette, he moved to Paris with his two children, a daughter, who died shortly after their arrival in Paris, and a son. Through some unfortunate carelessness Moritz Moszkowski lost the copyrights to his compositions during the wars of 1914, and eventually died from a painful throat illness in near poverty in 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 proper re-assessment of Moszkowski's compositions has taken place nor has anyone written 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 of affairs. Much of Moszkowski's music is written for the piano. These works are generally miniatures, always well-crafted and always very pianistic. His early song cycles show an affinity for the voice and are written in a powerful style that suggests the language of Brahms. The orchestral suites show him to be a brilliant orchestrator, with a strong grasp of polyphony. The operas and ballets show a keen understanding of theatrical music and have been performed allover the world, while the piano and violin concertos are brilliant showpieces, full of delightful melodies. Yet, despite all this musical evidence, Moszkowski is not accorded much attention and is often considered little more than a footnote in musical history. The Piano Concerto in E major, Opus 59 is one of the extraordinary examples of romantic works in this genre. According to the critic Edward Lippman this: "is the work of a man who not only was familiar with innumerable concerti written over a period of more than a century, but also was in command of every trick of the trade".
Moszkowski completed the concerto in 1898, dedicating it "à Monsieur Josef Casimir Hofmann", a player who was to become one of the greatest piano virtuosi of all time. The concerto is scored for the usual woodwind, brass, and strings, but in addition, it makes occasional use of a triangle and a harp. Somewhat unusual for a piano concerto is the key of E major, and the fact that there are four movements instead of three. At the beginning of this century, the Moszkowski concerto was very popular, appearing frequently in the orchestral programmes of all the major orchestras of the world, and championed by most of the major piano virtuosos of the time. When another famous piano virtuoso, Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, toured the United States during the 1906-7 season performing the concerto, Hobbard William Harris provided the following musical analysis of the work (which became the standard analysis for this work, reprinted in concert programmes for the next several decades):
"The first movement is a brilliant composition, opening with what may he taken as its principal theme, inasmuch as it furnishes most of the material for the development, and also reappears in the last movement as a climax to the whole work. The announcement of this resolute subject (by the flutes and oboes accompanied lightly by other woodwind, and deeper strings) is followed by a short solo cadenza, after which the unfolding of the musical picture begins. As this proceeds several subsidiary melodies come to notice, prominent among them being one which (while hinted at before) does not assume its formal shape until given out, grazioso, by the pianoforte alone following a short upward chromatic scale passage. This graceful subject aslo figure, conspicuously in the development which, after passing through a succession of interesting stages, culminates finally in a rousing climax.
The second movement is an eloquent, nocturne-like effusion, of which the principal thematic element is the expressive subject given out softly at the commencement by the clarinet, and bassoons, staccato, and the strings, pizzicato – this being taken up shortly and carried on by the solo instrument. An agreeably contrasting intermediary section follows, after which the expressive first theme returns – now in the harp and strings against flowing figurations in the solo instrument. Lastly a short free conclusion passage leads us into the third movement. The Vivace is a lively, sparkling composition in Moszkowski's characteristically brilliant manner, and commences with the statement of a nimble running theme by the solo instrument. After this vivacious subject and its derivatives have been worked over briefly another buoyant theme comes to notice in the flutes and clarinets, over a strumming guitar-like accompaniment in the pianoforte. The development from here runs mainly on this theme, leading finally to a short cantabile passage for the solo instrument (unaccompanied), following which the movement proceeds quickly to a dashing conclusion.
The fourth and last movement opens with a short flourishing introductory passage which leads to the statement of a resolute theme by the solo instrument. After this has been developed at considerable length the pianoforte introduces a contrasting theme of flowing character, to which the clarinet attaches itself shortly. Presently the development of the resolute opening theme is resumed, leading to the entrance of still another subject, given out softy but decidedly by the clarinet and the violas, and worked up forthwith in alternation and combination with the resolute opening theme. The flowing second theme returns, the movement mounting thence to a climax, at the pinnacle of which the resolute opening theme of the first movement reappears in enlarged rhythm."
The six characteristic pieces Aus aller Herren Länder (‘From Foreign Lands’), Opus 23, were originally composed for piano duet and were published in 1884. In the same year, Moszkowski also published them in an orchestral arrangement, and they became an instant favourite on concert programmes all over the world. The six miniatures are dance pieces, each representing a different country, and in the original four-hand piano version are ordered: Russian, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian and Hungarian. On this recording, the suite is organized as follows Russian, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish and Hungarian. The opening piece is a dreamy Rossian dance, somewhat reminiscent of Tchaikovsky and Glazunov. Next is the Italian dance, a tarantella. The stately German dance follows. A Spanish fandango is next, after which we hear a fast Polish dance. The concluding Hungarian dance is a czardas. All six of the dances show Moszkowski's mastery of style, each one a refined, clear, graceful, articulated miniature, full of charm and rhythmically buoyant.
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