> MOSCHELES Piano Concertos [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ignaz MOSCHELES (1794-1870)
Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 3 Opp 56 and 58
Anticipations of Scotland; A Grand Fantasia Op 75
Howard Shelley, piano/conductor
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Recorded Federation Concert Hall, Hobart August 2001
HYPERION CDA 67276 [75’50]


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Prague born Ignaz Moscheles grew to maturity as a young virtuoso alongside such contemporary titans as Hummel, Cramer and Weber. Venerating Mozart and Clementi he lived to see the adulation of the Liszt cult and it’s perhaps tempting to see Moscheles as a locus classicus of the early romantic dilemma – inheritor of Mozartian procedures but straining to encompass a wider body of expression. In that of course he was not alone – and I think it would be fair to say that he succeeded far more comprehensively and more persuasively in his solo piano works than in his concertos. He apparently admitted that he found problems with the orchestration of the Concertos, though there is certainly nothing either improper or limited in a conventional sense about the carapace he placed around the solo part. But there is, ultimately, a lack of melodic distinction to these works that render them peripheral to the struggles of the early romantic literature, though not, obviously, without moments of interest.

Moscheles wrote eight Piano concertos between 1819-38. The Third is the best known and has been recorded several times before. It’s a strong, powerful work that struggles to balance Classical equilibrium with more subjective Romantic elements. The maintenance of such dichotomous material was inherently problematical, though it has to be said that Moscheles’ acknowledgment of it was implicit in his scores and it’s a welcome sign of his imaginative engagement that he was prepared to attempt the coalescence of such material in his writing. To the Mozartian frame Moscheles looked to Beethovenian propulsion. This added a determined syntax to the development of the First Movement of the Third Concerto which still manages to breathe effortlessly. The slow movement’s brass interjections and thematically rather theatrical gestures lead to the piano’s scampering insouciance; Moscheles floods the movement with lightness and a measured largesse of spirit but is reluctant ever to plumb great fissures of feeling. He remains an urbane cosmopolitan when it comes to depth. In the earlier Concerto, published in 1825 but first performed some years previously his Mozartian proprieties are fleshed out orchestrally, extended but never inflated. Throughout the first movement elements of Polonaise rhythm threaten to become explicit and the anticipation of Chopin is palpable here; it wasn’t only Field and Hummel who occupied some amorphous proto-Chopinesque territory. Again Moscheles’ slow movement is a decorative and rather frilly one whilst the dotted noted finale makes clear what the first movement hinted at – a Polish dance movement. The grandiloquently titled Anticipations of Scotland; A Grand Fantasia was written when Moscheles lived in England – as he did for over twenty years; playful, frequently variational in form, employing the expected dance rhythms. Performances are good; sometimes the strings sound undernourished in the Concertos. Not a disc of undiscovered masterpieces obviously but a sure reflection of the dilemmas confronting a talented composer, thematically and stylistically, during two decades of the early nineteenth century.

Jonathan Woolf

  Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto Series



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