RECORDING OF THE MONTH
E.J. MOERAN (1894-1950)
Sketches for Symphony No.2 in E flat (c.1939-50) (realised and completed
by Martin Yates, 2011) [33:07]
Overture for a Festival (c.1930-35) (orch. Rodney Newton 1994 rev. 2011)
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Sarnia: An Island Sequence for orchestra (orch. Martin
Yates 2011) (1940-41) [20:55]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
rec. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 21-22 June, 2 August 2011
World premiere recordings
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7281 [59:14]
This is a sensational release both as to the works featured and the way they
are performed. We have nothing to compare the two major items with but such
is the radiance, colour and drive achieved it is odds against that these versions
will be excelled any time soon.
The Moeran symphony has been rescued by the conductor from the very fragments
that I read about in Musical Times back in 1980?. I have long hoped that something
could be done to bring these part-completed ideas to a sympathetic if inevitably
speculative fruition. Martin Yates has done a truly magnificent job. He has
the mature Moeran signature under his fingertips. However, it is not just a
matter of imbibing the manner, Yates has also moved modestly out into the unknown
region of how Moeran might have developed had alcohol and various brands of
depression not taken hold.
This single movement Symphony is laid out in four sections - each with its own
track. Like the 1937 symphony - especially its third movement - this music is
shot through with emerald and aquamarine light of the same hues glimpsed in
the curl of the combers on a sunny day. It feels like authentic Moeran. The
ideas have the composer’s typical topography and reach. The sounds are
familiar with the blade of the violins keen, surging and taut. The whoop of
the horn benches evokes the glory of the waves breaking and drenched in magnificence.
It’s viscerally exciting stuff with eruptive rasping brass, screaming
woodwind and rushing strings. In the third section there’s a starry Delian
gleam in the violins and the French horn solo sweetly calls out - the manner
is similar to that in Moeran’s Delius-dedicated Nocturne with a
dash of Lonely waters. This poetic strain surfaces again in the finale
which otherwise captures what a smashing and whooping sea symphony should be
when performed with unwavering confidence. It’s an arresting piece and
the light reminds me of the words of James Elroy Flecker though the Moeran is
from cooler climes:-
The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea,
The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming sea.
Also by no means free of oceanic associations is Yates’ masterly orchestration
of John Ireland’s major piano sequence: Sarnia. There’s precious
little orchestral Ireland so it is good to have this. Le Catioroc is
atmospheric, mesmeric and sultry. It sounds a little Gallic with its swirling
harp music recalling Cras and the more exotic music of Roussel. It has a Debussian
wash to it: yes, La Mer but also La catédrale engloutie.
In a May Morning catches Warlock’s wandering tonality while the
final Song of the Springtides is lighter of heart: swirling and diaphanous.
Any rare Moeran is welcome but the weakest piece here is the rather ramshackle
Overture for a Festival. It has its village green jollity but it still
creaks. Parts of it are familiar either in detail or in character. The echoes
are with later works such as the Serenade, the Overture to a Masque
and the Sinfonietta. In any event it is good to make its acquaintance
afresh after hearing broadcast tapes. Rodney Stephen Newton orchestrated it
for the Norwich Festival in 1994. It received a broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on
21 December 1994 with the BBCPO conducted by Adrian Leaper.
The Moeran Symphony No. 2 will receive its public premiere at the English Music
Festival on 1 June 2012. I already have my tickets.
This is a very welcome disc from Dutton and its documentation simply adds to
its compelling attraction. You dreamt of having some new Moeran and Ireland
- here it is. I wonder how long it will be before someone issues a CD coupling
the two symphonies.
Sensational … radiance, colour and drive.