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Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Sinfonietta (1944) [23:16]
Symphony in G minor* (1937) [44:24]
Overture for a Masque (1944) [10:36]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult*
rec. 1968, 1970, 1975. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.247 [78:55]

This will do well and fully deserves to. Although the circumstances that kept most Lyrita originals out of the CD catalogue since 1983 remain a matter of historical frustration the fact is that the long delay has simply intensified the market. The log-jam is now cleared and appetite-whetted sales in a market dry for these long hidden recordings deserve to be phenomenal.

The bass amplitude is phenomenal in the Sinfonietta. Listen to 7:31 in the middle movement. Despite the age of the tape there is no trace of pre-echo or print-through on the startlingly imperious rushed opening of the last movement; neither is there an unearthly silence. That hushed pizzicato 1:10-1:34 in the finale is the most sumptuous ever. Ending with the burbling string crescendo. All very immediate, lapel-grabbing and gorgeously larger than life.

Then we move to the Symphony which is recorded in much broader and deeper ambient conditions. It is resplendently lively, resonant with detail and full-lipped in romantic address. Lissom woodwind voices reach out to seduce the listener. There is also a chesty grunt to the many active ostinati including those set aggressively running in the first movement. The woody tone of the double basses at 8:23 in the first movement positively groans with character. Those squat and fruity French Horns providing a prominent contralto boost to the shattering chords that explosively punctuate the exuberant close of the first movement. You will look in vain for quite the same splendour in the other versions – and that applies also to the Heward reborn in Pristine’s historic reanimation on Divine Art. Much the same applies to the marine swell and cross-currents of the second movement at 6:32 onwards with its rapturous harp and woodwind slashes (7:42 onwards) running through the swathed texture of the strings. Boult takes the scherzo (III) at daredevil speed but is matched by the NPO’s oboist. Then at 3:05 there is one of the most magical passages in all classical music where the harp and French horn and flute and pizzicato strings serenade – it is not quite as effective as Neville Dilkes’ unfairly derided EMI Classics recording given that the pace of Boult’s scherzo, while full of exhilaration, is too fast for my complete liking. The French horns at 4:20-4:35 in the finale are every bit as good as LP stalwarts will have recalled or imagined in their best dreams – not a scintilla of distortion just the glorious burred and rolling roar of the breakers. The irresistible trudge of the strings as we move into the section so clearly influenced by Sibelius’s Tapiola at 7:20 forward is also notable.

Never mind Boult’s Elgar this recording shows Boult at his most stirringly impressive. This is his finest recording in much the same way as Groves EMI recording of Bliss’s Morning Heroes is Groves’ finest – his testament. Both Lloyd-Jones and Handley come close but cannot displace this version of the Symphony; it bears the crown with eager majesty. Of course the Pristine-Divine Art version has great historic significance catching the conductor of the premiere only a handful of years after the first performance. And in the case of this version making the thorny 78s sound better than ever.

One oddity now removed in the case of this Lyrita disc: on the LP the orchestra was named as the New Philharmonia Orchestra of London. The words of London have now been removed.

The Overture for a Masque is as explosive and recorded as grippingly as the Sinfonietta – a work with which it shares a youthful optimistic spirit. Its jocund, effervescent and romantic high spirits place it with Randall Thompson’s Second Symphony and Copland’s Outdoor Overture.

The March 2007 issues from this label include SRCD.248 Moeran Rhapsody no.2; Violin Concerto; Rhapsody in F sharp for piano and orchestra (LPO/Boult, Georgiadis/LSO/Handley and McCabe/New Philharmonia/Braithwaite).

The notes are taken from the original LP sleeves: Michael Williamson, Geoffrey Crankshaw and Frank Howes.

The CD cover holds firm to the Lyrita virtues of victory in simplicity and forthright sincerity. There is however nothing Spartan about these majestic recordings. Shout it from the rooftops!
Rob Barnett

The Lyrita Catalogue

NOTE: Hear the Moeran Symphony live with the Ealing Symphony Orchestra/John Gibbons on Saturday 12 May 2007 at 7.30pm in St Barnabas Church, Pitshanger Lane, Ealing. London W5. John Gardner Half-Holiday Overture Moeran Symphony in G minor Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 3. Tickets from Richard Partridge, Hon. Secretary 020 8567 4075
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