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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Symphony,
At last, this great reading of Moeran's truly wonderful symphony is available on CD. Boult's reading must be pretty nigh on definitive; superb sound, horn-led, perfect in every respect. Handley's Chandos reading is very fine indeed, and in some respects surpasses even Boult (the emphasis on timpani is telling) but this is a classic of the gramophone, and I - and many other lovers of English music - will be glad to have it restored to the catalogue. The Sinfonietta and overture are equally fine, but the symphony is the main event. Buy it; no, buy two copies in case you lose one...
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent,
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I'm in agreement with P S C Ebrey here. I have waited for this to appear for decades. Boult's performance of Moeran's magnificent symphony pushes all the other competition into the shade. In my view the only serious challenger is the legendary war-time Heward recording (although I have a soft-spot for the Neville Dilkes EMI version that was my introduction to this work during the LP days).
I have always felt that the last movement was rather episodic but Boult's recording triumphantly refutes my earlier view. The Tapiola-like storm episode is more threatening than in any rival version. This truly is one of the great British symphonies, worthy to stand alongside the much better known Walton Symphony 1, Vaughan Williams Symphony 4 and 6 and Bax symphonies 3,5 and 6. Let us hope that this work is performed live at the proms one day. Another, even lesser known magnificent symphony is Arnell's Symphony 3 (Dutton CD).
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great symphony and one of Boult's best recordings,
This is one of the great symphonies of the 20th Century and it is scandalous that it is not better known. The reason is probably that it was written at the very end of the Romantic era (1937-8) just before music like this went seriously out of fashion. Other casualties of the modernist, serialist, dissonant post 1950 era include the symphonies of Arnold Bax, most of Elgar except perhaps "Enigma" and the Cello Concerto (the symphonies and other works are merdifully now recovered in the concert hall) and the late works of Vaughan Williams. This music stands with the greatest of Elgar and VW and may be a better work than anything Bax ever wrote. Another reason for Moeran's neglect is that he did not write a particularly large amount of music for symphony orchestra so that he did not build a big reputation for this in his own lifetime.
Each one of the four movements of the work shows superb compositional skill. For example, the driving 4/4 dotted rhythm of the opening subject of movement 1 is offset by a wonderfully moving and lyrical second subject full of the wistfulness of the greatest British folk song which, whilst it is derivative of the idiom, is entirely Moeran's own. These two themes are then given an extremely rigorous treatment in the development before the movement begins to dies away quietly only to surge out again in a defiantly resolute burst of sound. The slow movement renews the sense of wistful longing and is built up of several themes which receive wonderfuly varied treatment - throughout the whole symphony the orchestration is magnificently imaginative - and this is hauntingly beautiful music. The airy scherzo combines lyricism with fascinating rhythmical diversity. Finally, the long and ultimately tragic last movement, with a storm section to rival Sibelius' "Tapiola" (which undoubtedly influenced it, but no bad thing either!) ends, also in the manner of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, with a sudden series of fortissimo chords.
Emotive response to music like this is always very personal. For me the symphony revels in beauty and energy remembered but ultimately lost - a deeply human and humane experience. But please try to hear it yourself if you don't know the work so that you can be intrigued by the enigmas at the heart of this glorious music.
And this recording is the one to own! The rather cheaper Naxos disc has good playing and driving energy but rather misses the special atmosphere of gentle longing that Moeran creates. It is worth buying if you are exploring and you will not be dissatisfied with it. But there is a whole new dimension to the work in Boult's hands that not even Leslie Heward's pioneering 1943 recording (Dutton) quite matches (this recording is a marvel of recovered sound and is a remarkable historical document, well worth hearing). Vernon Handley's Chandos recording with the Ulster Orchstra is also fine and richly recorded and, were it not for the existence of this very special Boult recording, would be more than adequate: but the great is the enemy of the very good.
Just what makes Boult's interpretation so great is hard to explain. It seems to have been one of those special moments in recorded music history where everything comes together in a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Firstly, Boult's tempi sound exactly right and he achieves a sustained flow and "line" through the most taxing changes of tempo and mood. Secondly, the Philharmonia (in its brief "New Philharmonia" period) are at the height of their powers, supple, responsive and with individual players delivering their featured parts with virtuosic skill (the Leader is superb in his solo moments and the oboe in the Scherzo has a lovely fresh tone). Finally, the Lyrita recording is a marvel. There is just the right amount of naturalness in the sound, the "air" around the music, that reproduces the experience of a fine concert hall (and I wish that Lyrita has credited the recording venue as I looked in vain for it on the booklet). In short, the recording sounds like a live performance, perfectly performed by inspired musicians and taken on the wing.
The other music on this disc is also finely performed but the reason for buying it is to hear one of the greatest performances by Adrian Boult of a sadly neglected masterpiece: the G minor Symphony. Please don't hesitate. Buy this now!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unequalled, and too long absent from the catalogue,
What can I say but to agree with the two other reviews so far of this outstanding issue? I can remember the first issue of the Symphony on Lyrita LP, to universal acclaim. It's a very effective symphony but needs a strong guiding hand and an idiomatic approach, which is what it gets in bucketloads here. The NPO play magnificently and the whole thing is totally convincing. The Sinfonietta is very attractive and immediately enjoyable and the Overture is likewise - and they are both very well performed - but the Symphony is what makes this new CD so very, very welcome.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding version of a fine symphony and in excellent sound,
This disc, very well recorded by Lyrita in 1968-70, has long been recognised as having strong claims upon collectors. The performance of the symphony, an unjustly neglected masterpiece, is the star attraction of the disc which is supplemented by fine performances of two other works of note.
Boult manages to create the impression of a vibrant 'live' performance of the symphony unfolding in front of our ears in what is a studio recording. This is an unusual event when caught in this way and rather suggests that the recording was achieved in long takes. Boult himself had long experience of the work and also with working with these orchestras. Both of these factors no doubt helped towards making the recording so convincing. Lyrita was renowned for creating recordings of great naturalness and so it is here.
The Sinfonietta and the Overture, both written after the symphony in 1944, are both significant orchestral creations from a composer whose natural instincts favoured the small scale range of compositions. However, as can clearly be heard here, he was a meticulous craftsman and both of these works are of high musical quality. The performances are of the same quality as the symphony.
There is a rival version of the symphony by Handley on Chandos. This too is very good although collectors will probably favour this version by Boult. Fortunately the two versions of the symphony do not overlap in terms of additional items and the Handley disc, available at a reduced price, includes a good performance of the Piano Rhapsody played by Margaret Fingerhut. The orchestra on the Handley disc is the Ulster orchestra and the recording dates from 1987-8.
I would suggest that the Boult disc will probably be the recording of choice for those primarily interested in the symphony. However, as the Handley disc is offered at a low price, it seems that an ideal solution would be to purchase both discs thereby creating a fuller collection of Moeran's orchestral output and simultaneously acquiring a very enjoyable alternative symphony performance, also in good sound.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Attractive Synthesis Of Other, Greater Composers,
Don't kid yourself. Moeran's symphony isn't even slightly original. It even goes in for obvious cribbing. But then again, why always talk of originality and the anxiety of influence? Why not say that Moeran is drawing on a wellspring of creativity available to him? It's the apologist's view.
This is an immensely accomplished and attractive synthesis of Vaughan Williams and Sibelius - the latter is everywhere apparent, not least in the blatant quotation from Tapiola. I'm beginning to think that, in a sense, many of GB's favourite composers are essentially amateurs. That may seem too harsh a judgement to put on Elgar or Holst, but Moeran's borrowings are so vital to the success of this piece that there really is no other way of hearing it.
But, as RVW said, why must music be original to be enjoyed? I'm a heart and soul Sibelius lover and for that reason I've thought about dumping this CD out of my collection. Problem is, every time I listen I really enjoy it. It's better than anything by Rubbra. So try it, but not at the expense of those others mentioned above, all of whose major works are more treasurable.
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Moeran: Sinfonietta, Symphony in G minor, Overture for a Masque by London Philharmonic Orchestra
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