Notwithstanding the well integrated Tapiola "borrowings"
in the finale the Moeran Symphony is an endlessly fascinating
work. It has a cogent emotional trajectory and superb impact.
an inexorable pulse for the opening ostinato. The Hallé’s
springy exuberance and poetry is accentuated by that taut
rhythmic foundation. Andrew Rose knows every wrinkle, tick
and bristle of these 78s having made at least three issued
transfers each designed to improve on the others (see
review). He is unafraid of the mono 78 ‘sizzle’ and has
left it in place; good thing too as this CD does not compromise
the upper string merits of the original. One thing Rose can
do nothing about is the ripsaw edge to the strings at their
upper limit as at 6.00 and 11:09 in the finale. For say 97%
of the time the strings are rendered with some suggestion
of fullness allowing for wartime vintage. The performance
inevitably lacks the ripeness and lush orchard-green tone
of Boult's classic Lyrita recording (SRCD.247). In Boult,
who takes more than a minute longer than Heward overall, the
strings have a luxurious weight. The whoop of the New Philharmonia
horns can be heard to glorious effect in the pounding finale
of the first movement. Heward's recording is historic and
this cannot help but show as in the tinny percussion at 9:15
in the first movement.
The Heward 78s
represented the work's first, and for many years only, recording
until Dilkes’ fine EMI version in 1972 (see
review). This was followed fairly quickly by Boult on
Lyrita circa 1975 (see
review), Handley on Chandos in the 1980s (see
review) and in this decade by David Lloyd-Jones on Naxos
review). In that sense this Pristine disc or download
has documentary value as well as intrinsic musical merit.
For me the pulse
in the third movement is too fast (the magical interlude at
3.30 goes for nothing) and much the same applies to Boult
and Handley and for that matter Sinaisky in his otherwise
fantastic and fiery Golovanov-style performance during the
BBC Proms in July 2009. Heward's way with dynamics is the
way of delightfully precise differentiation - a constant joy.
As an example take 9.00 in the finale where the horns caw
confidingly and in contrast to the storm that bookends that
This is a very
pleasing transfer of one of the gramophone's monuments to
British music and one that has been part of my musical landscape
since 1972; a heritage track. It is here made all the more
artistically resonant by the composer's presence during some
of the sessions even if alcohol was beginning to make him
something of a volatile quantity.
There was a time
when I thought I would never hear the Symphony live. This
was finally put right when I attended a concert by that overlooked
orchestral magician John Longstaff with the Sheffield Symphony
Orchestra in the mid-2000s. Why are conductors of his calibre
still overlooked despite the passing of Hickox and Handley?
Longstaff does not need a dearth of other talent to stand
out in the crowd.
By the way, while
Chandos already have an exceptional Moeran Symphony in Handley's
version with the Ulster Orchestra I do very much hope that
Sinaisky's firebrand reading will be recorded by them even
if they issue the Prom performance itself. In an ideal world
this should be coupled with a speculative reconstruction of
the Second Symphony the fragments of which were once the subject
of a fascinating article by Roderick McNeill. If it's good
enough for Elgar why not Moeran? I am curious to hear those
sketches and fragments in some form or another.
No notes provided
with the disc but substantial and informative notes can be read
at the Pristine
website. Rather like Walter’s Vienna Mahler 9 or Beecham’s
RFH Sibelius 2 this is both an historic document and more. It
remains a necessary supplement to your choice of the modern recordings;
my preference from which is the Boult-Lyrita disc.
from Jeffrey Davis
I greatly enjoyed Rob Barnett's review of this great performance.
I too was at Sinaisky's 'Golovanov like' performance at the Proms
this year and that is the perfect description of the performance.
I too thought that I would never hear the work live (as was my
belief about the 1913 version of Vaughan Williams's London symphony,
Miaskovsky's 21st Symphony, Gliere's epic Third Symphony and John
Fould's 'A World Requiem' - all of which I have heard live in
London in recent years. Next year it is to be Miaskovsky's 6th
Symphony in London.
The Moeran Symphony has also been on my musical landscape since
1972 when I picked up the Dilkes LP - I have not looked back since,
as far as that work is concerned. I too would love to hear a reconstruction
of Moeran's Second Symphony and also a recording of Cyril Rootham's
Second Symphony, completed shortly before his death. My enjoyment
would be complete were Dutton to release Stanley Bate's Third
symphony - his Viola Concerto was magnificent. Thanks Rob.