Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moscheles - Recollections Of Ireland

Ignaz Moscheles was a virtuoso pianist and composer that was good friends with Beethoven, mentor and friend to Mendelssohn and close associate with other Jewish musicians of the time like Anton Rubinstein, Joseph Joachim, and Ferdinand Hiller.  It was Moscheles who lead the counter-offensive when Richard Wagner wrote his antisemitic pamphlet 'Jewry In Music'


It seems Moscheles knew most all of the pianists of his time, and his honest and easy going disposition helped him to become friends with even some of the more modern (for his time) pianist like Liszt and Chopin.  Moscheles was born in 1794 and was fairly set in his ways technically when the music of Chopin and Liszt came to the fore. He tried diligently to play and relate to the music, but he had been taught the old school of playing and composing. With curved fingers that did most of the work at the keyboard, Moscheles couldn't really grasp the importance of using the arm and shoulder in playing the new works. As progress in composition goes, so goes the technique to be able to play it.  But to his credit he tried to keep an open mind and held his criticism to a minimum. It was his nature to be able to understand that he was indeed of the old school, and he tried to keep the things he thought were good about that in modern music.

Moscheles was very popular in England in the 1820's, and spent three weeks in Ireland in early 1826.. It was after this three week sojourn when he returned home that he wrote  Recollections Of Ireland. The work perhaps had its beginnings in improvisations on Irish melodies he played for audiences while in Ireland. He gave the first performance of the work in London later in 1826.

The work consists of four parts:
1. Fantasia - The orchestra begins with music that seems slightly familiar, the piano enters and expands upon these ideas.
2. Groves Of Blarney -  A gentle, sweet rendering of the tune evolves into glistening variations on the tune.
3. Garry Owen -  Originally an Irish drinking song that was made popular by the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. Moscheles varies the repetitions of the tune and it leads directly to the last movement.
4. St. Patrick's Day -  Moscheles sets the tune for the piano only, then the orchestra enters with a short episode and both join in for a variation of the tune.  Moscheles combines the tunes, and has the Groves Of Blarney enter for one last rendition and the melodies weave in and out before the joyful conclusion.

This music may not be a classic that plumbs the depths, but Moscheles didn't intend it to be. He intended it to be a pleasant diversion for piano and orchestra, kind of a tonal postcard of his visit to Ireland. To my mind, it accomplishes everything he wanted, and it deserves a place in the repertoire.

Moscheles Recollections Of Ireland

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