Much too early in his life Polish pianist, teacher and composer Moritz Moszkowski retired from both playing and teaching, lamenting that his compositions students all wanted to write “like artistic madmen such as Scriabin, Schoenberg, Debussy and Satie.“
British pianist Christopher Longdown opened his 2009 Wigmore Hall debut recital with four moments musicaux from Moszkowski’s opus 84.
The performance is now released as a Live in London CD for Divine Art, and it is immensely rewarding to listen to the young and gifted Langdown journey from Moszkowski’s salon world to that of Claude Debussy, one of the Polish master’s ”madmen”, then on to Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, and thence to a set of seven études by Alexander Scriabin, ending lastly with an all too brief Gnossiene by Eric Satie.
Langdown’s programming is both delightfully ironic and brilliant, and it keeps the listener interested during nearly two hour’s worth of lovely music making. Beyond that reading his insightful program notes further enhances the experience.
The engineer for the recording, Darius Weinberg did an excellent job by both faithfully capturing the warmth of the hall’s acoustics and keeping the sound of the piano at a realistic distance, thus avoiding the often claustrophobic intimacy of some recordings we hear these days.
Langdown plays the Moszkowski pieces with the same sobriety that he brings to his reading of Beethoven’s opus 31, no. 2, never condescending nor worshiping at the altar of The Great Composers, but merely playing with impeccable technique, while allowing the music plenty of room to do its thing. Never encumbering the selections with capricious interpretation the young pianist is all business, and the results are remarkable.
In the second CD of the set, we hear a very inventive and pleasantly surprising Dramatic Fantasia by the unjustly neglected (at least here in America) Frank Bridge, into which Langdown injects concentrated high-octane energy.
He follows it with his own composition Deo Omnis Gloria, a tripartite work infused with intense spirituality and emotion. It is an unabashedly romantic work worthy of attention and of its addition to the CD that validates Langdown as a composer of note.
Avoiding the catch all programming approach to so many debut recitals, Langdown ‘s program allows him to transition with assurance from the Romanticism of Moszkowski and Bridge to the transparency of Debussy and Scriabin and to the rigorous classicism of Beethoven, with never a technical misstep. Beyond the merely technical, Christopher Langdown’s immense musicality and unimpeachable musicianship places him in the mind of this listener as one of the finest pianists of Great Britain.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com