Moeran - In the Mountain Country, Rhapsodies, Overture for a Masque
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Cat No: 8573106
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 6th January 2014
WorksIn the Mountain Country
Overture for a Masque
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra in F sharp minor
Rhapsody no.1 in F major
Rhapsody no.2 in E major
ArtistsBenjamin Frith (piano)
Ernest John Moeran’s Rhapsodies occupy a significant place among his orchestral compositions. Each is marked by melodic exuberance, inventive scoring and formal mastery. Moeran’s gift for imbuing his music with folkloric tunes that are actually his own is especially evident in the First Rhapsody and in his first orchestral work, In the Mountain Country.
First performed in 1943, the Rhapsody in F sharp major for piano and orchestra is unashamedly popular in style, with an appealing tunefulness.
JoAnn Falletta serves as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony in the United States and Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland.
The Europadisc Review
This attractive new disc from Naxos features the Ulster Orchestra under their principal conductor JoAnn Falletta in a selection of (mostly) lesser-known works by E.J. Moeran. All five pieces could be described as rhapsodic, though only three are so designated by the composer. They are nicely ordered so that the two later works – the Overture for a Masque (1944) and the Rhapsody in F sharp (1943) – frame the earlier ones. All are thoroughly engaging, with a strongly lyrical flavour, and the three early works all clearly echo Moeran's joint Norfolk and Irish heritage, with a plethora of themes in a pseudo-folk style.
Earliest is the short tone-poem In the Mountain Country (1921), Moeran’s first orchestral work, composed while he was still a student at the Royal College of Music, and dedicated to the Irish conductor and composer Sir Hamilton Harty. Although a youthful piece, it demonstrates how assured Moeran already was, with two measured and deftly-scored outer sections framing a more energetic central episode. The first two Rhapsodies, in F (1922) and E (1924) show the young Moeran steadily growing in confidence and skill, with the orchestration becoming increasingly imaginative and the slower passages more atmospheric in an almost Impressionist vein. The E major Rhapsody is performed here in the composer’s 1941 revision for slightly smaller forces, but its impact is none the less for it.
The Overture for a Masque was composed to a commission for Walter Legge (later the founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra) as a work to entertain troops during World War II. Written primarily to entertain, it was described by Moeran as ‘snappy and exciting’, and contains an almost pageant-like succession of themes in an upbeat style, with a brief moment of folk-like reflection before the uplifting closing pages.
Perhaps the most compelling work on the disc, and at over seventeen minutes certainly the longest, is the third Rhapsody in F sharp. This is a concertante work, the orchestra joined by a solo piano, and it was written for Harriet Cohen, who gave the first performance at the 1943 Proms season with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult. The style is unashamedly popular in style, the outer sections waltz-like and at times almost jazzy (a Rhapsody in Green, perhaps?!), though there is still room for a more reflective and wistful central section. The skilfully-written piano part is performed here with great élan and poetry by Benjamin Frith.
All the performances are finely-detailed, with an enviable mixture of flair and sensitivity, and the partnership between Falletta and her players is clearly a happy one. The recordings are first-rate, and there are concise but informative booklet notes by Paul Conway.
1Overture for a Masque
2In the Mountain Country
3Rhapsody no.2 in E major
4Rhapsody no.1 in F major
5Rhapsody in F-sharp major
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