Moszkowski: From Foreign Lands (Rediscovered Orchestral Works) – Five Spanish Dances Op 12; Six Airs de Ballet Op 56; From Foreign Lands, Op 23; Torch Dance, Op 51; Habanera, Op 65 No 3; By the Cradle Op 58 No 3; Gondoliera, Op 41

Reviewed on Mon 26 Sep, 2016

What to expect, musically? Think of the lighter side of Elgar and that will give you some idea, whereas the slow third movement of From Foreign Lands suggests affinities with Schubert.

Collectors with good memories may well recall an excellent Spanish-themed Decca vinyl record – one of their first stereo LPs in fact – that featured the LSO under that superb but ill-fated Spanish conductor Atauflo Argenta (a programme since reissued on Decca, 475 7747) that included the last item on this enjoyable programme of music by the 19th-20th century German-Jewish composer, pianist, and teacher Moritz Moszkowski, the Five Spanish Dances Op 12. And while Martin West and his excellent San Francisco Ballet Orchestra don’t quite match Argenta for élan, their affable and lively performances, always well played, fall very happily on the ear, and the sound is superb. The rest of the programme is well worth hearing, especially the polonaise-style Torch Dance, Habanera, Six Airs de Ballet and the Gondoliera, all of which are here given their world première recordings. And what to expect, musically? Think of the lighter side of Elgar and that will give you some idea, whereas the slow third movement of From Foreign Lands suggests affinities with Schubert. Just one minor complaint about the presentation: although we’re given the titles and total timings for the three suites of shorter pieces, there are no systematically listed timings or titles for individual movements. You have to search the text for the latter, which is a real bind if you want to use them for, say, broadcast. Otherwise, the notes are excellent, and the programme as whole is, as I’ve suggested, a pleasure to listen to.
–Rob Cowan