MOSZKOWSKI: Piano Concerto in E Major; GRIEG: Piano Concerto – Joseph Moog, p. / Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken Kaiserlautern/ Nicholas Milton – Onyx

MOSZKOWSKI: Piano Concerto in E Major, Op. 59; GRIEG: Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 16 – Joseph Moog, piano/ Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken Kaiserlautern/ Nicholas Milton – Onyx 4144, 65:37 (6/9/15) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: 

For most collectors, David Bar-Illan introduced us to the virtuosic glories of the 1898 Concerto in E in four movements by Moritz Moszkowski, a work that pianist called “an orgy of pianism, an intoxication with what the instrument can do.”  Dedicated to Josef Hofmann, this work covers a vast panoply of mercurial emotions and spectacular effects, acrobatic in the style of Saint-Saens, thrilling without anguish or depth. Joseph Moog collaborates with conductor Milton in this performance from 10-11 June 2014, recorded in excellent sound by Thomas Raisig.

Besides the broadly majestic theme of the first movement Moderato and its often gaudy development, Moszkowski indulges in what must be called salon effects, quiet interludes of relative introspection on an entirely intimate level. When the tuttis recur, they seem intent on “rectifying” whatever quietus Moszkowski had achieved. Moments of counterpoint contest the relatively straightforward homophony of piano and orchestra, whose tissue conveys a bucolic, outdoor sensibility. The optimism of the first movement extends into the nocturnal Andante movement, here touched by an air of mystery, supported by harp glissandos.

Having built the slow movement to an impassioned climax, Moszkowski segues directly into his Scherzo: Vivace, a strictly bravura moment – a kind of saltarello – in the form of Moszkowski’s familiar etude pieces, aided in coloring by the triangle, a maneuver as much of Liszt as the motion is Saint-Saens. The finale, Allegro deciso, eventually turns to a cyclic ploy to reintroduce the first movement theme. Meanwhile, the music’s “busy” style could be taken for Poulenc’s sophisticated combination of romantic impertinence. Moog’s fingers remain ever-active, moving in tandem with treacly strings and bold declamations in the horns. After some academic counterpoint, a third tune appears in the clarinets and violas, without having disrupted the main impetus to a grand moto perpetuo. If “Etincelles” means “sparklers,” then this concerto means to conclude on the Fourth of July.

It seems that any good pianist who can play the 1868 Grieg Concerto in A Minor performs it well. The famous drum roll of the Allegro molto moderato introduces the most perfect piano concerto, here intoned with devotional beauty of tone and style by Moog and conductor Milton. The interplay between Moog’s bass chords and the lilting woodwinds from Saarbruecken prove most attractive, and the melodies remain eminently singing. The declamatory elements, often akin to those in Schumann, play against the playful and lyric gestures in ardent symmetry. Moog’s cadenza – by Edward Neupert possibly – comes across with explosive, controlled power. The D-flat Adagio, still the miracle of all slow movements after the Beethoven G Major Concerto, floats over aerial, muted strings. With the building of the climax, the music dissipates once more into a rarified, melodic aether of piano, French horn and strings, only to segue directly into the energetic duple time of the halling of the last movement. The pounding, impassioned bravura then yields to the flute and the gorgeous melody that Scandinavia – namely Denmark – bestows on blessed spirits. With the move to triple time, we are then prepared for Moog and Milton to indulge in those pyrotechnical feats in A Major which the last pages provide.

—Gary Lemco

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