Moszkowski, Moritz

Moritz Moszkowski is a German composer, pianist and conductor of Polish origin. Moszkowski was born in a wealthy Jewish family. His parents moved from Pilica to Breslau shortly after the birth of their eldest son - in the future, the famous satirist writer Alexander Moszkowski. Maurycy showed early musical abilities and received his first music lessons at home.

In 1865, the family moved to Dresden, where Moszkowski entered the conservatory. Four years later, he continued his studies at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin with Eduard Frank (piano) and Friedrich Kiel (composition), and then at Theodor Kullack's New Academy of Musical Art. At the age of 17, Moszkowski accepted Kullak’s offer to begin teaching himself, and remained at this position for over 25 years. In 1873, he gave a solo concert in Berlin for the first time and quickly became famous as a virtuoso performer.

Moszkowski was an excellent violinist as well and sometimes played the part of the first violin in the Academy orchestra. His first compositions belong to the same time. The Piano Concerto, first performed in Berlin in 1875 and highly praised by Franz Liszt, was one of his most famous compositions.

In 1884, Moritz Moszkowski married Henriette Chaminade, sister of the French woman composer Cecile Chaminade. The couple had two children - son Marcel (1887-1971) and daughter Sylvia (1889-1906).

In the 1880s, due to the onset of a nervous breakdown, Moszkowski almost finished his pianistic career and focused on composition. In 1885, at the invitation of the Royal Philharmonic Society, he visited England for the first time and performed as a conductor. In 1893, he was elected a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, and four years later, he settled in Paris.

During this period, Moszkowski became a popular composer and a sought-after teacher. Wojciech Gawroński, Josef Hofmann, Wanda Landowska and Joaquín Turina were among his students. In 1904, on the advice of André Messager, Thomas Beecham took private orchestration lessons from Moszkowski.

Since the early 1910’s interest in Moszkowski’s music began to decline gradually. The death of his wife and daughter severely undermined his already shaky health. The composer began to lead the life of a recluse and finally stopped performing. Moszkowski spent the last years of his life in poverty. In 1921, one of his American friends arranged a big concert in the Carnegie Hall in the composer’s honor, but being seriously ill, Moszkowski did not manage to use the proceeds during his life. The money forwarded to his funeral

Moszkowski’s early orchestral works had some resonance, but piano compositions - virtuoso plays, concert sketches, and other works and parlor pieces intended for home music production — brought him real fame.

In the early works of Moszkowski, the influence of Chopin, Mendelssohn and, in particular, Schumann can be traced, but later the composer formed his own style, which, not distinguished by special originality, nevertheless, clearly showed a subtle authorial sense of the instrument and its capabilities.

Ignacy Paderewski wrote later, "Moszkowski, perhaps better than other composers, except Chopin, understands how to compose for piano". For many years, the works of Moszkowski were forgotten, practically never performed, and only in the recent years the interest to his works was revived.

Moszkowski’s works abound in beautiful and charmingly elegant melodies and vibrant and attractive rhythms; they are perfect in form and framing. Moszkowski’s music is romantic in conception; it always moves in the direction of thought conceived by the composer. He is both exuberant and original; his music always directly touches and arouses the listener's interest. Hence its great popularity.