Moritz Moszkowski was one of the most successful concert pianists of the 1890s. His fame today rests mainly on a small selection of his piano works that test the virtuosity of the performer. But this Polish composer wrote so much more; chamber music, concertos, and orchestral music.

With this release, Toccata Classics launches an ambitious series to explore some of Moszkowski’s neglected orchestral music. Pianist/conductor Ian Hobson conducts the Sinfonia Varsovia in a powerful performance of  Moszkowski’s “Johanna d’Arc.”

This hour-long symphonic poem is big — and the Sinfonia Varsovia rises to the occasion.  The twenty-year-old composer was inspired by Richard Wagner and Joachim Raff. The music is expansive and thickly orchestrated. The Sinfonia Varsovia plays with a full-bodied sound that seems, well, Wagnerian.

This epic symphonic poem is based on Friedrich Schiller’s Jungfrau von Orleans. Like Wagner, Moszkowski establishes motifs for various aspects of the story; Joan, the innocent peasant girl; divine visions; conflict; victory, etc.

These motifs keep the work tightly knit together, despite its large scale. If you appreciate the music of Wagner or Raff, you should enjoy “Johanna d’Arc.” I certainly did.

Hobson’s interpretation coupled with Sinfonia Varsovia’s fine performance made this a compelling listen from start to finish. I’m ready for volume two now.

Moritz Moszkowski : Orchestral Music, Volume One
Johanna d’Arc, Op. 19
Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics TPCC 0523