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Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Serenade in G (I Prologue; II Intermezzo; III Air; IV Galop; V Minuet; VI Forlana; VII Rigadoon; VIII Epilogue) [23:40]
In the Mountain Country - Symphonic impression  [7:06]
Rhapsody No. 1 in F major for orchestra [11:54]
Rhapsody No. 2 in E major for orchestra [12:56]
Nocturne for baritone, chorus and orchestra [13:26] *
Hugh Mackey baritone*; Renaissance Singers 
Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley 
rec. Ulster Hall, Belfast, 8-11 March 1988 (Rhapsodies, Serenade); 19-23 February 1989 (In the Mountain Country, Intermezzo and Forlana movements of Serenade)
CHANDOS CHAN 10235 X [69:22]
Experience Classicsonline

This selection of the smaller-scale  Moeran is still characteristic and complements the rest of the now mid-price Moeran catalogue from Chandos.

The Serenade catches Moeran in a gallimaufry of moods. There's Moeran capering (Prologue or Galop) or soliloquising (Air) Capriol style or Moeran the robust or abstracted pastoral pilgrim (Minuet) or Warlock the antiquarian (Rigadoon). Handley and the Ulster Orchestra in their glory days sound completely at home in the idiom. This is so much better sounding than the old Revolution LP recorded by the young Handley and the Guildford Philharmonic with a scorching Bax Tale the Pine Trees Knew.

The earliest work here is the Harty-dedicated In the Mountain Country with its mood of earnest reflection subtly hinting at a countryman's ecstasy. Those subtle drum-rolls recall Ireland's Forgotten Rite. This is the only recording of Rhapsody No. 1 (as also with the previous item). It is the first of three Rhapsodies - the last a virtual concerto for piano and orchestra - heard on Chandos in the hands of Margaret Fingerhut and on Lyrita with John McCabe. The First Rhapsody is dedicated to John Ireland whose Mai-Dun is recalled in a mood of catastrophe at  4.37. This is self-evidently the work of the composer of the G Minor symphony - still best heard on Lyrita. The Second Rhapsody has been long familiar from the Boult recording on Lyrita. Some of us cannot get out of our heads that it belong with the Overture for a Masque simply because it shared an LP side with that work on the Boult's Lyrita LP. It has an expansively romantic theme which first appears at 1:55 but also is not short of vigour. If the Serenade is sometimes queasily redolent of Warlock's Capriol, the Nocturne takes us without shame or feign to the world of Delius. It is a setting of words by Robert Nichols exploring poetic concepts similar to those of Ernest Dowson. The rich weight of summer's somnolence, satiation and languor pulse slowly through this music. It is bound to please if you warm to the Delius Songs of Sunset and Songs of Farewell. Hugh Mackey caringly shapes the notes - and the words - as do the sighing and subtle Renaissance Singers.

This is a unique collection performed with apposite sensitivity. The essential supplement to the Symphony and Concertos all fully and regally represented on Chandos.


Rob Barnett



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