Moszkowski - From Foreign Lands on Reference Recordings

Moritz Moszkowski (1854 – 1925) was a German pianist/composer/teacher. He was known primarily for concertizing and teaching at the Berlin Conservatory, but also gained some fame as a composer of light music and instrumental works. In fact, it took some serious research by conductor Martin West to discover enough published orchestral material for a full CD. This Prof. Keith Johnson/Reference Recordings CD is the very pleasant result. 

Some works, such as From Foreign Lands, have gained some traction in the concert hall, but most of the other works are receiving their world premiere recordings. 

First off, Moszkowski's music is delightful. Expertly composed and beautifully arranged for full symphony orchestra. If you like orchestral music with both froth and depth, then this CD's repertoire is for you. 

Especially beautiful are the Spanish Dances Op. 12. Many of you may recognize Moszkowski's most popular work. He is a wonderful melodist and matches them with subtle harmonies and evocative rhythms. Percussion is highlighted throughout the CD and the section is spectacularly recorded by Reference. Sure, the loud is good, but the micro dynamics of the cymbals, castanets and bass drum are just brilliant. 

Conductor West also includes the catchy Torch Dance op. 51, my personal favourite along with the very beautiful Gondoliera, Op. 41. Here, the orchestra's ensemble is highlighted along with lovely solos. 

Much of the music is reminiscent of Messager and Massenet. Not an altogether bad thing. 

Martin West conducting his San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Photo credit: SFGate

Martin West conducting his San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Photo credit: SFGate

Let's not kid ourselves, here. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is not the Berliner Philharmoniker. But no matter. They play beautifully with characterful solos and excellent ensemble. Only the odd disagreement in intonation belies its musical heritage. As a first class ballet orchestra, the players are tuned in to West's rhythmic subtleties and rubato. It makes for lovely interpretations of these unknown works. 

The recording? By Prof. Johnson. We are not worthy! Superlative, as usual. Do you think he and Reference would ever release anything less than benchmark? Of course not. This beauty is no exception. Warm, detailed and powerfully deep when required. The repertoire is not slam bang, thank you Ma'am, but there's enough dynamic diversity to place the recording in total sync with the music and West's vision. Highly recommended. 

Moszkowski - From Foreign Lands
rediscovered orchestral works
Martin West - San Francisco Ballet Orchestra


TRACK LISTING: 1 Fackeltanz (Torch Dance), Opus 51 (1893); 2-7 Aus aller Herren Länder (From Foreign Lands), Opus 23 (1879/1884); 8 Habanera Opus 65, Nr. 3 (1900/1904); 9 Près du Berceau (By the cradle), Opus 58, Nr. 3 (1896/1897); 10-15 Six Airs de Ballet, Opus 56 from the Incidental Music to Grabbe's "Don Juan and Faust" (1896) 13:59; 16 Gondoliera, Opus 41 (1886) Orchestrated by Otto Langey (1912); 17-21 Spanische Tänze (Spanish Dances), Opus 12 (1876) Orchestrated by Philipp Scharwenka (1879) and Valentin Frank (1884) NOTE: 1, 8, 10-15, 16 - World Premiere Recordings