> Ernest John Moeran - Symphony in G Minor [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Symphony in G Minor (1937)
Sinfonietta (1940)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
David Lloyd-Jones
Recorded Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, June 4th - 5th 2001
NAXOS 8.555837 [67.33]


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Commissioned in 1924 by Hamilton Harty Moeran’s Symphony in G underwent many of the vicissitudes that visited the composer during the completion of larger scale orchestral music, of which this work and the absurd muddle over the first performance and dedication of the Violin Concerto are probably the peaks. The thirteen year wait though was well worth it even though it seems Moeran shelved much of what he wrote immediately following the commission and began work on the symphony in earnest again only around 1934.

I believe we owe this recording to some spare studio time – if that’s indeed the case then the Bournemouth orchestra are as flexible and idiomatic as the conductor, David Lloyd-Jones, has increasingly proved himself to be in the British repertoire. And they have together given us an excellent recording, thoroughly recommendable, with one stringent caveat, even though it doesn’t for me efface memories of Boult, Handley and Dilkes – or Heward. There is a beautiful reserve of delicacy for the famous second subject of the first movement and I particularly admired the handling of the burnished yet unsettled writing from 6.35. Strings are ecstatic – though not uncontrolled – at 3.50 in the Lento with brass interjections subtly moulded and the culminatory writing at 5.40 – swirling strings – is excellently handled. The Sibelian inheritance of the work has long been noted but it’s still fascinating to hear the Nordic rhythmic insistence of the incident beginning at 7.40 – well integrated by Lloyd-Jones as well. Delicacy and grace are well subsumed in the elfin scherzo, albeit with its contrastive eruptive material on show. It was only in the finale that doubts crept in. I admire the horn and string Sibelian surge, even the beautifully modulated explicitly Elgarian passage beginning at 5’40 (Elgar 2, the Elgar and Sibelius derivations are by now tedious to point out but unmistakeable). But the finale’s close is the real problem. There is something relatively slack about it that disappoints. Comparison with, say, Heward, the most visceral of all recordings of the Symphony, its premiere recording from 1942, shows a greater weight of anticipation and tension, a stronger, semi dormant bass line, malign and omnipresent, that Lloyd-Jones can’t begin to match. Heward’s overlapping melodic impress lent a sense of overwhelming conclusiveness – albeit an ambiguous one – to the finale, the final eruption a culmination of the earlier orchestral prophecies. In comparison Lloyd Jones is hardly supine but he is unpreparedly abrupt. So a good performance then, let down for me by the finale. The Royal Philharmonic Society premiere of the Symphony at Queen’s Hall, conducted by Heward, in January 1938 does apparently exist. It would be fascinating to hear this document and to contrast it with the recording he made four years later.

The Sinfonietta is unalloyed delight. Beautiful string figuration and horn and clarinet writing animate the first movement – and there are some intoxicating Moeran moments of sweeping grandeur. The baroque-folk hints of the Tema second movement unleash some rushing strings and powerful trumpet (notably well-balanced by the engineers) with a fugal episode as strong as it is short. The delicacy and expressive simplicity of the Fourth Variation is tenderly done, cellos coursing through the line, exceptionally expressive on the E string. And how well those little hesitant displacements of the Sixth variation are conveyed before the drama and delight of the concluding Allegro risoluto.

Notes are by Lewis Foreman and up to his high standard, engineering and production values are high as well; I admired much of the conception and execution here and as such this is a real bargain disc even if, for the deeper complexities of the Symphony, you will need to look elsewhere.

Jonathan Woolf

Also see review by Neil Horner


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