The works on this disc constitute a budget-price reissue on the Chandos Enchant label, and include both of Moeran's evocative string concertos. The Violin Concerto, arguably the composer's finest orchestral work, is played by the Ulster Orchestra under the masterful baton of the late Vernon Handley, a noted Moeran enthusiast, with Lydia Mordkovitch as soloist. Unusually, the two outer movements are comparatively slow, framing a lively middle movement. The concerto has a rhapsodic, autumnal feel, and Moeran reveals that it was inspired by his love for the landscape and people of County Kerry in the west of Ireland. The jig-like vivace conjures up visions of the Puck Fairs that took place in that part of the world. There are moments of heart-rending beauty, especially in the final movement, before soloist and orchestra meander to a gentle and resigned close. It has been noted by Stephen Banfield that the opening phase of that movement resembles the opening of the last of Moeran's Seven Poems of James Joyce ("Now, O now in this brown land..."), and it is certainly true that the mood of these poems coincides exactly with that of Moeran's music.
The Cello Concerto was written in 1945 for Peers Coetmore who was soon to become Moeran's wife, and there is a Lyrita recording of her performing it. Here, however, Raphael Wallfisch is the soloist, with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta conducted by Norman Del Mar. Although there are some vigorous, dance-like moments, the cello generally sings throughout the three movements with a sad lyricism, and the Kerry landscape is never far away. The mood, in fact is very much that of the Violin Concerto.
The two shorter pieces on this disc were conceived in the late twenties and early thirties. Lonely Waters is essentially an orchestral rhapsody which offers a comparatively rare example of Moeran actually quoting a folksong (from Norfolk in this case), rather than simply using folksong inflections. In one version a singer is used to render the final verse of the song, but in the version recorded here a cor anglais is substitued.
The source of the other piece, Whythorne's Shadow, is a song by Thomas Whythorne (1528-96). Many critics of the 1920s had a low opinion of Whythorne as a composer - one which Moeran's friend Philip Heseltine (alias Peter Warlock) took great pains to dispel. This little work surely betrays that fact that Moeran shared Heseltine's appreciation of this forgotten Elizabethan composer.