Monday, 21 November 2011

Ignaz Moscheles:Fantasia Recollections of Ireland, Op.69

Ignaz Moscheles is not British, but he did compose a delicious piece entitled Fantasia Recollections of Ireland, Op.69. I just love every note of this short four movement ‘concerto-ette.’ It is full of fun and poignancy, excitement and reflection. Never for a moment does the technical prowess of the soloist have cause to relax.
The work was allegedly written shortly after the composer's visit to Dublin in January 1826. His diary has preserved his description of the hair-raising crossing from Holyhead to Kingstown. He wrote that ‘in the howling storm, and as sea-water hissed into his cabin, he put his faith in an Almighty Providence and thought calmly of his sleeping wife and baby.’ But all was to be well: Moscheles was to see his family again. Henry Roche, the writer of the Hyperion CD liner notes suggests that this work was written out of gratitude for his survival. However another slightly more prosaic suggestion is that he was in the habit of concluding his Irish recitals with a ‘Fantasy of Irish Airs.’ So perhaps these Recollections were just an extension of this conceit. But I will stick with the former explanation.
These potboilers were written to a definite formula. For example the opening movement had to have a long orchestral introduction before the soloist enters in the 'grand manner.' It is all about virtuosity - usually through more and more complex development of material. The succeeding movements explore differing aspects of the Irish folk tradition. For example the slow movement is based on the well known tune 'The Groves of Blarney'. However we know this melody as 'The Last Rose of Summer' nowadays. This is a beautiful rendition of this tune, complete with subtle ornamentation. Soon we are into the allegro based on a Redcoat tune called 'Garry Owen'.
The last movement is interestingly described by Roche as belonging to an Ivesian soundscape- insofar as Moscheles combines most of the tunes he has used in the 'traditionally ebullient conclusion.'
The Recollections of Ireland is available on The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 36 – Moscheles 4 & 5 Hyperion CDA67430
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

1 comment:

Tom D said...

I have got much pleasure from a disc of solo piano music (and music for piano and flute) by Moscheles, performed by pianist Christine Croshaw on the Meridian label.

Excellent sound and a very fine pianist.

A sample of it can be heard on her website - La Forza, Moscheles: