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Ernest MOERAN (1894-1950)
Rhapsody No.2 (1924 rev. 1941) [13:39]
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1941) [34:54]
Rhapsody in F sharp for Piano and Orchestra (1943) [19:14]
John Georgiadis (violin)
John McCabe (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (Rhapsody No.2)
London Symphony Orchestra/Vernon Handley, (Concerto)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite, (Rhapsody in F sharp)
rec. 1970-79
LYRITA SRCD248 [67:21]

Long gone are the days when I used to collect Lyrita LP’s, my initial interest deriving from the totally wonderful recording they made of Moeran’s Symphony with Boult conducting the New Philharmonia in 1975, which is available on Lyrita SRCD247 coupled with the Sinfonietta and Overture to a Masque. I must say, that I’ve never found another work by Moeran that quite ticks all of my boxes, as does the symphony, but, no matter, there are still delights to be experienced in his other works.

First up is the Rhapsody No.2 (for orchestra), which attempts to use as its material tunes with a specifically ‘national’ inflection, and for Moeran, that meant Ireland. There is a nice romantic tune at the centre which to my ears has an Irish ‘twang’, and it is surrounded on either side by other, quicker melodies, whose rhythmic variation adds to the rhapsodic flow of the piece. It is very nice, and whilst not ultra-memorable, is very much worth a listen. The orchestra play very well for Boult, and the recording is splendid.

The violin concerto is unjustly neglected, as is all Moeran’s work, and this performance does it full justice. I also have Lydia Mordkovitch’s performance on Chandos, reviewed enthusiastically here, and although the conductor, Vernon Handley, is the same there as on this Lyrita disc, the Ulster Orchestra for Chandos is not as good as the LSO, and Lyrita’s late analogue sound is not inferior to that of Chandos, in fact I’m inclined to think it better, lacking an edge unfortunately common in early digital efforts. John Georgiadis, now a successful conductor and one-time leader of the LSO, is technically first rate, and plays with an inwardness and expressive beauty that rather eludes the very fine Mordkovitch. In the Lento third movement, his playing (and the orchestra’s) is beguilingly beautiful, and at times quite takes my breath away.

The disc concludes with the Rhapsody in F sharp, a nineteen-minute work that followed on a year after the Violin Concerto. Whether it is a Concertante work or a sort of mini-concerto is, to my mind, neither here nor there. It was written when Moeran was at his compositional peak, and can be enjoyed as such. It might be that its length makes it a difficult piece to program – too short to occupy the central concerto slot, and thus not very attractive to pianists, and if this is the case, it’s a pity, because it is an attractive piece. It plays in one continuous movement, divided into three sections, and was composed, at Bax’s suggestion for Harriet Cohen. Moeran is said to have designed it so that the finale would rouse a proms audience to cheers. That said, the finale follows on suddenly from the piano’s poetic musings in the lovely slow central part, with a ten second accelerating section for solo piano, melding into the accompanied coda lasting a mere 1:08. I feel that those fireworks are too short to achieve the sustained propulsive drive needed to really get an audience going, although, of course, they might well respond enthusiastically to what has gone before. As with the preceding pieces, the recording is very fine and the soloist and orchestra are on top form.

The booklet notes are fine as one is used to from Lyrita, although there is a slight editing fault in the note by Anthony Payne regarding the F sharp Rhapsody, where he compares it to the Phantasm for Piano and Orchestra, without mentioning that that piece is by Frank Bridge.

This is an excellent CD and has given me much pleasure.
Jim Westhead
Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Jonathan Woolf

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