MOSCHELES: Piano Concerto No. 7 “Pathetique”; Piano Concerto No. 8 “Pastorale”; Piano Sonata in E Major – Sinfonia da Camera/ Ian Hobson, p. and cond. – Zephyr

by | Aug 19, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

MOSCHELES: Piano Concerto No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 93 “Pathetique”; Piano Concerto No. 8 in D Major, Op. 96 “Pastorale” (reconstr. Hobson); Piano Sonata in E Major, Op. 41 – Sinfonia da Camera/ Ian Hobson, piano and cond. – Zephyr Z151-11, 75:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The music of Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) falls in and out of eclipse, given its derivative nature that always suffers invidious comparisons to his friends and idols: Beethoven and Mendelssohn. But acolytes Howard Shelley and Ian Hobson continue to promulgate their realizations of Moscheles’ scores, and persistence may finally win out.  Hobson’s Volume 4 (rec. 2007-2009) derives from sessions on his Hamburg Steinway at the Foellinger Great Hall Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.
The Concerto No. 7 in C Minor (1835) is dedicated to friend and fellow-pianist Giacomo Meyerbeer, a friend from old Vienna days. The opening movement, Allegro maestoso e Moderato, vacillates rather bombastically between C Minor and C Major, with the only captivating melody having come from the clarinet. Between galloping chains of runs and bravura filigree there evolve a few humorous modulations and passionate expletives, but the bravura too often devolves into an end in itself. In A-flat Major, the second movement Allegro agitato seems singularly brief after the rhetoric of the first movement. The scherzo music of the opening moves into a sort of lullaby, an Andante espessivo in B, and those independent entities combine and segue directly to the Finale. The final Allegro con brio bears a vague semblance of Beethoven and Schumann in the prevalent C Minor. The toccata or etude-like character of the writing suggests Chopin, but Hummel might provide a better analogy for the less than inspired quality of the melos.
Moscheles’ last concerto, that in D Major (1838), is dedicated to Mendelssohn. As the piece stands, it divides into five sections that make it  model for Karl Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding Symphony, since their “programs” remain similar. The opening Andantino con moto in 3/8 describes a village holiday and music-making festival. The clarion sounds in the keyboard often suggest Grieg and Saint-Saens. Bells and bagpipes color the rural air, and we segue directly into the F Major 2/4 Allegretto which at first plays like an elaborate woodwind-piano quintet. Church bells announce the betrothal of a village belle and her swain. The Adagio, with its sweet low string harmonies, weaves a nocturne of connubial bliss. If the effect suggests a Mendelssohn song without words for piano and orchestra, no one would deny the coincidence. Another Allegretto ensues, this a semi-tarantella in D that plays with octaves and a martial affect. The last movement Allegro non troppo conveys a country reel of some power, much in the spirit of Smetana. The facile combination of piano and orchestra in jaunty swirling colors certainly anticipates the acrobatics of Saint-Saens. That the 3/8 meter enters at the close solidifies the “cyclic” means of both composers and their mutual idol, Beethoven. The 1839 edition of this score has fallen into obscurity, and Ian Hobson has recreated the orchestration based on versions of the printed piano score.
The ambitious Grand Sonata in E Major (1816) has Beethoven as its dedicatee, musically as well as in name. A degree of similarity in scope and tone exists between this sonata and Beethoven’s Waldstein. The militant buoyancy of the main subject and the ostinato, Alberti bass figure under the lyrical secondary melody nod to the Master. Occasionally, the figures evoke Schubert or Chopin as a possible reference, especially a rhetorical, epilogue-phrase marked innocente. The first movement certainly shows off Hobson’s rounded sonorous piano tone, captured in natural acoustics by Christopher Ericson. The development section of the opening Allegro con spirito combines elements of both Beethoven and Schubert, lyrically dramatic.
Like Schumann, Moscheles favors the use of two trios in  his Allegro molto: Minuet or Scherzo, of which the latter designation seems more apt. The first of these trios could be taken for a Schubert impromptu. The Andante espessivo offers us a Romance in B Major that bears all the earmarks of a Schubert opus, especially from D. 935.  Moscheles has composed a lovely aria for the keyboard, and it will transform into a serene G Major before its eight-minute duration plays out. A darkly percussive episode arises that, too, yields to operatically vocal flourishes. The roulades and turns of melody share their sound with Mendelssohn. The Finale: Scherzando – Allegro ma non troppo is a rondo on light, witty feet that contrasts with an allegretto in 2/4. Some counterpoint asserts itself, then a chromatic descent serves as a transition to a highly agogic section that may remind some of luscious Weber. Some tricks, enharmonic and otherwise, play on our fancy before Moscheles urges us forward to a scintillating conclusion.
—Gary Lemco

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