Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
E.J. Moeran really was a good composer. His style sounds a bit like a mixture of Vaughan Williams and Walton: the folk-influence of the former, with a bit of the rhythmic flexibility and edgier harmonic style of the latter. His death in 1950, while still in his mid 50s, resulted largely from alcoholism, a problem he shared with so many of his British musical colleagues, including John Ireland, Constant Lambert, and Peter Warlock, to name only a few.
The five pieces on this disc include his earliest orchestral work, In the Mountain Country, the delightfully snazzy Overture for a Masque of 1944, and the three Rhapsodies, the last of which features a virtuoso piano solo very ably rendered here by Benjamin Frith. All five works come recognizably from the same pen, and although none borrows obvious folk tunes the inspiration is clear and invariably attractive. Any one of these works would grace a concert program today, and it’s a pity that so few of them do.
If any orchestra can be said to know these works, then it would have to be the Ulster ensemble since it recorded this music under Vernon Handley for Chandos. JoAnn Falletta does an equally fine job with it, offering spirited and vigorous renditions that time out almost identically to Handley’s. This isn’t music, after all, that offers much opportunity for huge interpretive variation, but that’s just an indication of how directly expressive and unfussy it is.
Do I hear a tiny bit of ragged ensemble between the brass and strings at a couple of points in the First Rhapsody? No matter. With excellent sonics, the result is an extremely enjoyable release that deserves wide circulation.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: None
- MOERAN, E.J.:Overture for a Masque; In the Mountain Country; Rhapsodies Nos. 1-3