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Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Prelude and Fugue for string orchestra, Op.85 [11:58]
Violin Concerto in C major Op. 30 (1882) [38:34]
Five Spanish Dances, Op.12 ((1876, arr. small ensemble) [13:56]
Marcin Danilewski, Paweł Maślanka (violin)
West Side Sinfonietta/Agnieszka Kreiner
rec. 2019, Main Hall of the Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland
CD ACCORD ACD273-2 [64:30]

With competing labels exploring further afield amongst Moszkowski’s orchestral music there will inevitably be duplication of repertoire, something that was – with the exception of his piano morceaux – unusual. The case in point is the large-scale Violin Concerto, first recorded by Charles Treger and the Louisville Orchestra under Jorge Mester and restored to CD life on Soundmark. I’ve never heard it in a long time, so can’t be sure whether or not there were any cuts because, by the timings alone, it seems extremely fast. Thomas Christian with Bamberg forces recorded it on Koch but the most impressive recording of the work thus far is self-evidently that of Tasmin Little with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Orchestra on Hyperion.

Marcin Danilewski, soloist in this latest traversal, is cut from a less potent cloth. He doesn’t emulate Little’s tonal breadth or her ease of execution in the concerto’s passagework. She is four minutes faster than Danilewski, partly because of her conception of the work and partly, it has to be noted, as a result of her greater facility in turning technical corners. But Danilewski and conductor Agnieszka Kreiner do well in bringing out the noble romanticism of the opening movement and the prayerful lyricism of the central Andante, albeit a faster tempo might, counter-intuitively, have brought an even greater sense of ardour, whilst a much quicker one is needed in the finale to bring out the music’s true vivacity. So, no, this recording won’t challenge Little’s; the orchestra sounds relatively small-scale and the recording quality is a bit muddy.

In the Prelude and Fugue for string orchestra Marcin Danilewski returns to co-lead and co-direct with co-principal Paweł Maślanka. The Prelude is quite solemn and serious-minded but admits Moszkowski’s natural lyricism before the entry of the Fugue – thoughtfully separately tracked - which is typically effective and efficient. It even ends in a blaze of Bachian organ sonority glory. This is just the kind of work that Toccata may well take up in its ongoing Moszkowski orchestral music series of which Volume two has just been released.

The Five Spanish Dances are still known on the fringes of the repertoire but largely in the original piano four-hands version more than any other arrangement, of which there have been a number. This one, for ‘salon orchestra’, is by an unknown arranger but provides many a charming paragraph. There is nothing Spanish about any of these dances, really – not to those weaned on the Franco-Spanish effusions of the late nineteenth century - or to genuine Iberian composers. Rather these are graceful, facile with sedate courtliness and, at times, a kind of sub-Slavonic Dance air about them. As such you would be honoured to hear them in a domestic setting.

It’s a shame that the booklet, which has some attractive full-colour photographs and artist biographies in both Polish and English, says almost nothing about any of the three works, preferring instead a biography of the composer. And however novel it is to hear the Prelude and Fugue and the rarely encountered salon-chamber version of the Dances, the main event is the Concerto, where others prove more convincing.

Jonathan Woolf

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