Moeran -----> Classical Music Reviews

Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950) Symphony in G minor (1937) [44'30"] Sinfonietta (1944) [23'03"] Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Conducted by David Lloyd-Jones Recorded in the Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset, England; June 2001 NAXOS 8.555837 England, famously the "Land Without Music" produced a surprising rash of symphonists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Parry has had a recent renaissance and Vaughan Williams' and Elgar's symphonic outputs are well-known. All credit is due to Naxos for commissioning exploration of the lesser known corners of the genre. Their recent recording of the 4th symphony of Bax [Naxos 8.555343] with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under David Lloyd Jones was reviewed a few months ago, and this new release brings the listener into even less familiar territory. E J Moeran is best known as a composer of charming songs in English, mostly for voice and piano but with several sets of popular choral songs in regular use as well. He was a great traveller in the British Isles and a friend of Phillip Heseltine (known as a Peter Warlock when composing) and the two of them spent much time in the English and Irish countrysides. The G minor symphony was commissioned by the great Ulster musician, composer and conductor Hamilton Harty and has been described as "one of the finest pieces of nature music ever written". This is not to say that there is any attempt at programmatic writing; the work is resolutely symphonic in its conception, cast in the traditional four movements - all of some breadth of scale. Moeran uses elements of Irish and Norfolk folk songs as his basic material and manages to combine this material with skilful orchestration and symphonic development to create an evocative and atmospheric account of the British countryside without recourse to mere depiction. It is an eminently listenable symphony in the late symphonic mould clearly showing certain debts to Vaughan Williams, Sibelius and even Mahler in places. The Sinfonietta of 1944 (not 1940 as stated on the back of the CD) is a very different work. Properly it could be considered as Moeran's "2nd Symphony" although the title Sinfonietta is his own. It is cast as a set of symphonic variations, by which structure Moeran was attempting to forge new forms and develop new ideas for working within the symphonic framework. The orchestration is fairly lean and the resulting sense of clarity is well brought across in the Bournemouth orchestra's reading of it. The final extended movement, marked Allegro risoluto, provides a fitting opportunity for the orchestra to show its mettle and David Lloyd-Jones, who clearly has an empathy with this period of English music, drives the orchestra on with tightness and precision. The recording is well balanced and clear and shows the Bournemouth Orchestra in better shape than they have been for some years. It is to be hoped that this continues, lest they go the way of their unfortunate colleagues at the now-defunct Bournemouth Sinfonietta. ((c) Peter Wells 2002)

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