on 13 May 2013
Compared to other British Cello Concertos (Elgar, Walton, Britten etc.) the Moeran is virtually unknown. However it is easily one of the loveliest and most accessible works written for the Cello that I've come across and it really deserves far more attention than it receives. Guy Johnston's account of this concerto is just superb! He never overdoes it yet at the same time he captures the atmosphere of the work perfectly and at given moments really pulls at the heart-strings! For any Guy Johnston fan and/or for anyone with a taste for music by British composers from the earlier half of the 20th century, this CD is a must-have! Wonderful music, winningly played by both soloist and orchestra, beautifully clean & clear recording - what's not to like?!
on 3 April 2013
This is an all to rare opportunity to hear a disc of Ernest Moeran's orchestral pieces, not only the cello concerto of 1945, but three shorter works, the Serenade, Lonely Waters and Whythorne's Shadow.
Moeran's music is reflective of his upbringing in Norfolk and of his Anglo-Irish background, a certain folk influence melting into a spare pastoral tranquility. Moeran's close friendship with Philip Heseltine - Peter Warlock - is evident, both in Whythorne's Shadow (based on a re-discovery by Heseltine of a madrigal by the Elizabethan composer Thomas Whythorne), and in the Serenade, which with its Elizabethan references is reminiscent of the Capriol Suite.
In the Adagio of the concerto particularly, it's hard not to think of Moeran's First World War experiences (he was badly injured on the Western Front), but this is far from heart-on-the-sleeve stuff; on the contrary, the transparency of the orchestration leads to a kind of pellucid beauty, and it's all the more affecting for that.
Guy Johnston's performance seems definitive; this is a reading of the utmost sensitivity, and he's sympathetically supported by the Ulster Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta.
on 5 April 2013
This is an attractively presented disc. The cover photograph is beautiful, no doubt chosen to convey something of the mood of the performance of the cello concerto - generally hazy, understated, mellow and withdrawn.
Certainly these are the misty qualities that this subtle performance most represents. There is a melancholy air to the concerto in particular, eased a little in the third movement - which however concludes in this recording with as blatant a plea for audience applause as is to be found anywhere, a coda that seems somewhat schizophrenic given the mood projected by the entire preceding 27 minutes!
I've no doubt that this concerto has a haunting beauty often conveyed in the context of a hushed atmosphere. But there is more to the work than seems to have been discovered in this often uncharacterised performance. There seems a deliberate reluctance to project the music's other moods and phases. Although the cello 'sings' through the entire work, the melodies are almost hinted at rather than memorably articulated. The other great recording, by Raphael Wallfisch and his deeply perceptive partner Norman Del Mar, glows with soft colours and an intensity that seems altogether missing in this recent issue. It is significant that with Del Mar the third movement coda feels to be a grand summation of all that has preceeded, rather than a disconnected moment of excited freedom.
But no doubt the Naxos disc is well worth hearing - but I'm not sure if I'd reach for it very often in preference to the alternative mentioned above. Or maybe I will! To try and discover what I may be missing as I listen to its whispered utterances.
on 22 October 2014
I loved this recording of the Moeran 'cello concerto. It is a profound work, beautifully written and, on this recording beautifully played. It is a work refreshingly without all the showy arrpegio padding, fireworks and pseudo 'significant' 'cello emotionalism that the public seem to expect, and that passes for music in the concertos of many other composers.
Moeran does indeed display the skill of the cellist, but it is the musical and not the technical skill that interests him, the technical difficulties, which are certainly there, go unrevealed, and Surprise! surprise! the 'cello is actually in tune and not jagged, no Tortelier here!. Moeran's linear style is very suited to the instrument, it often seems to me that all of his works seem to have originated from doodlings on a 'cello!
JoAnn Falletta is as on the other Naxos Moeran disc a wonderfully inspired conductor, and Guy Johnston's 'cello playing is masterly, and haunting and breathes with the soul of Moeran.
The two tone poems; Lonely Waters and Whythorne's Shadow are genuinely lovely, the latter revealing a deep nostalgia, felt by many musicians, for the musical golden age of 'Fair Gloriana'.
The 'Serenade' which was very popular in Moeran's life time, I am less happy with; it has wonderful moments particularly in the 'Air', but Moeran is not, in my opinion, a good imitator of other peoples styles, and his 'takes' on the Galop, Minuet, Rigadoon and Forlana I find unconvincing. The 'Rigadoon' ( originally a lively, hanky waving 'let-it-all-hang-out' sort of dance,) leaves my French friends ( and me!) puzzled and depressed. Parts of the work also reveal another very much 'IN_YOU_FACE' 'shouty' side of his style, not often revealed, which is what spoils, for me, the 4th movement of his otherwise superb symphony. It is in these sections, thankfully rare,which are certainly not, as Wordsworth recommended; 'Emotion recollected in tranquility' that Moeran comes his nearest, in my opinion to writing empty music
Apart from this I think that this record is very good, in fact a real 'gem' well worth buying particularly at the give away price.
There are four pieces recorded here. They reveal two very different aspects of E.J.Moeran There is a bit of fun based on an Elizabethan madrigal - 'Whythorne's Shadow' - Tudor English neo-classicism. Similar but of greater significance is the eight movement suite 'Serenade' It is light-hearted with touches of humour. The other side of 'Jack' is found in 'Lonely Waters'. sad, rhapsodic, melancholy, with sound of birds - closing with a moment of singing. Touching, particularly when remembering his death while falling into water. But above all these things is a tremendous performance of one of the world's great cello concertos. Guy Johnston accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta - is mesmerising in power and control while producing a lovely sound appropriately recorded at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. There is tension and action as well as gentle reflection. The slow movement reveals the singing of the cello. The Irish feeling of the finale is exciting and passionate, deeply felt with a taut conclusion. This concerto merits playing more often.
on 9 April 2013
Ernest John Moeran was born in 1894, and brought up in Norfolk. He was of Anglo-Irish descent, the son of an Irish clergyman and English mother. He studied violin and piano as a child. Attending Uppingham public school, he later went to the Royal College of Music, where his studies were interrupted by the First World War. It was whilst serving on the Western Front that he received head injuries which were to affect him for the rest of his life., both physically and mentally. After the War, he studied privately with John Ireland, and developed a life-long friendship with the composer Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock). He married the English cellist Piers Coetmore. He gradually lapsed into a life of drink and died in 1950, falling from a pier into water as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage and heart attack.
Being best known for his Symphony in G minor, the cello concerto was written in 1945. His cellist wife inspired both the composition of this work and the cello sonata. I came to this CD without having heard this cello concerto before, knowing only his wonderful symphony. So I do not have another recording of the work to compare it with, though I do know of at least two other recordings of the work. For those who have never heard this beautiful concerto, I would urge them to investigate. It is a very English sounding work, with traces and echos of Vaughan Williams, Walton and even Delius. There is a beautiful lyrical slow movement, which is akin to an elegy. Nostalgia and wistfulness pervade the first two movements. The third movement is an allegretto with an Irish folk spirit. I cannot understand the relative neglect of this work; it should be performed more often and become part of the cello mainstream repertoire.
Guy Johnston's performance is captivating, with a beautiful, rich cello tone. JoAnn Falleta and the Ulster Orchestra provide admirable support. The cd also includes the short orchestral rhapsody Lonely Waters, with an exquisite contribution from the soprano Rebekah Coffey, and Whythorne's Shadow, a fantasy based on an Elizabethan madrigal.
At only budget price, this is a must for all cello lovers.
on 20 August 2013
I thought Moeran's Cello Concerto, which opens the disc, was fantastic - a brilliant piece and a sensitive realisation. I could listen to the second movement all day. Pastoral, but not in a wandering way, Moeran moves between a wider palette of colours than Vaughan-Williams but without Bax's aimlessness. The sleeve notes describe the last movement as `protean' which I think is a great word - Moeran changes moods like Sibelius, so you suddenly realise you're in a new landscape without realising where the change happened. Guy Johnston's playing is always clear, warm and thoughtful, never egotistical or violent. JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra make a lovely sound; soloist together with orchestra create a sound with a sense of great space. The quiet passages are full of subtlety.
The Serenade in G is a bit of a contrast. It's essentially light music. Think of the Capriol Suite (by Warlock, who Moeran was close friends with): again sort of faux-Renaissance, made a bit soupier but with fewer catchy tunes. It provides a nice interlude between the two ends of the disc, if possibly a few movements too long.
The final two pieces on the disc were published together but make an odd pairing; a smaller version of the differences between the Concerto and the Serenade. Lonely Waters is a thoroughly pastoral rhapsody, nice but with not quite so much heart-tugging as the Concerto. Then Whythorne's Shadow is another piece based on an Elizabethan source, this time a madrigal by Thomas Whythorne. It doesn't stray far from the Elizabethan topic and repetitive dum-de-dum rhythm of the source, though, and as a piece I felt it a bit of a weak end to a disc that had started so beguilingly - the concerto was worth the price of the disc on its own.
on 27 January 2014
Worth exploring this much neglected composer. The playing is delightful well worth a place in anyone's collection. Naxos is to be congratulated for it's enterprise.
on 21 March 2015
A brilliant lyrical rendering by Guy Johnston!
on 29 April 2015