Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Moeran, Jones Lloyd, Bournemouth So|
Symphony in G Minor
The Pathos and Beauty of E. J. Moeran
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 02/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Edward John Moeran (1894 - 1950) liked country living, and he lived simply, without ostentation, for his art. He belonged more or less to the folksong school of English composers, but spread his net wider than Vaughan Williams or Holst, collecting tunes not only from the vanishing rural preserves of England just after the First World War - in which he was wounded - but also from Ireland, to which he had a strong paternal attachment. (Moeran's father was an Irish-Anglican minister.) Like Vaughan Williams, Moeran took a cue now and then from Sibelius. He worked steadily but slowly so that the oeuvre he left at the time of his premature death (he drowned in the River Kenmare) is enough to establish his profile but cannot be described as large. Yet almost every opus is a gem, not least the beautiful Symphony in G-Minor that occupied its author for more than a decade, finally appearing in 1937. Despite arguments that it is derivative of Sibelius, Bax, or (believe it or not) Stenhammar, the G-Minor stands apart from all of these and shows many original touches. Leslie Heward and the Hallé Orchestra recorded the Symphony in 1942 (the reading is legendary) and since then three other recordings have appeared: one with Neville Dilkes and the English Sinfonia (EMI), one with Sir Adrian Boult and the London Symphony (Lyrita), and one with Vernon Handley and the Ulster Orchestra (Chandos). Dutton has reissued Heward - it is a remarkable interpretation with gorgeous restored sonics - while both Dilkes and Handley have migrated from LP to CD, but only Handley is currently available. Boult languishes (with so much else, alas) in the Lyrita vaults. A new "reading" of the G Minor will compete, then, with those of Heward and Handley. And how does Hugh Lloyd-Jones do in comparison? The primary test in any performance of Moeran's Symphony comes in the transition from the first to the second subject in the opening movement. Here an impetuous and anxious music involving the full orchestra must make way for a gentler, more sparely scored music (mostly strings, latterly with important additions from flute and horn) in folk-song accents. Both subjects are memorable, but the mood of each is distinct from that of the other. I have not seen the score, but I would guess that it indicates a slight pause (a "minim's rest," maybe) in the transition. Handley manages the juncture well; Heward, at whose recording sessions Moeran was present, strikes me as perfect. While Lloyd-Jones is not perfect, he is at least as good as Handley just at this moment in the score - a vital moment where the movement either holds together or falls apart. In his handling of the developmental section of the movement, furthermore, Lloyd-Jones strikes me as superior to Handley, and the equal of Heward: he is especially good in emphasizing the ruggedness of the development, its rhythmic quality, its occasional ferocity. The notes, by the redoubtable Lewis Foreman, let on that the rhythmically fierce passages in this movement might refer to a locomotive of the Great Eastern Railway chugging its way up the incline known as the Brentwood Bank. Moeran was apparently an enthusiastic train spotter. As Foreman says, once the listener knows this, it is hard to keep the image at bay. In the slow movement, where the adjective "Baxian" is perhaps not unjustified, Lloyd-Jones paints on a broad canvass in subtle colors: commentators often say that this movement took its inspiration from the sea - and as unsophisticated as it is to say so, Lloyd-Jones creates a mood appropriate to deserted tidelands in the late afternoon, of reflection and shadow and desolation. The Scherzo is fleet indeed, aerial where the slow movement is oceanic. In the long, and complicated Finale, with its many contrasting episodes, Lloyd-Jones again sustains a unifying logic in his interpretation. The companion piece on the program is the Sinfonietta of 1940 in three movements. This, too, is beautifully done, the equal of any of the previous (two or three) recorded readings. Naxos allows each of the variations in the middle movement a separate track, which is helpful to listeners. The recording of the Symphony is the best yet of this work, exceeding in its sonics what was achieved (more than a decade ago, after all) by the Chandos engineers for Handley. Strongly recommended."
A little more about the sinfonietta
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have little to add to the terrific review here by Thomas F. Bertonneau. But he skimped a little bit on the Sinfonietta in his enthusiasm (well-deserved) for this new recording of Jack Moeran's G Minor Symphony. So I wanted to add a word or two about it.The Sinfonietta (1944) is essentially Moeran's Second Symphony and was written quickly in a burst of creativity, in contrast to the fourteen years it took to complete the earlier Symphony. It was commissioned by Sir Arthur Bliss, then director of music for the BBC. Its première was conducted by Sir John Barbirolli (and Moeran expressed his delight that the première was NOT handed over to Adrian Boult, for whom he had some antipathy). It is only a little slighter than the large G minor symphony, and is more lightly scored. It does share with its older brother its musing on nature and the use of folk-tinged materials. It has appeared on recordings at least four times - by Beecham and the Philharmonia (1946 - from a radio broadcast), by Boult (a 1963 BBC recording), by Norman del Mar (1986) with the Bournemouth orchestra also heard here, and by Richard Hickox and the Northern Sinfonia. Only the Hickox is easily available. The present recording need not hang its head in the company of the others. Indeed, it is quite a good recording, beautifully catching the spirit of this work; the size of the string tone, occasionally a problem with the Bournemouth group, is more than adequate, and the CD's sonics are very good, better than any others, although the del Mar is acceptable, if a bit bright.I well recall that my first exposure to the music of Moeran was an execrable recording of his cello concerto played by his wife, Peers Coetmore; and I well remember writing him off on its account. A dear friend convinced me I was wrong and I'll forever be in her debt; fortunately the concerto was later recorded beautifully by Raphael Wallfisch. Moeran's music is special. It's too bad its rarely played outside Britain. I heartily second Mr Bertonneau's endorsement of this recording. And there's the budget price in its favor as well."