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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2014
I must agree with Graham's review. This is one of the best Naxos CDs I have come across in a long time. The revelation for me was JoAnn Falletta's wonderful performance of Overture to a Masque, aided by a terrific recording. It is played with much greater urgency than usual and, in its wartime context, I found it oddly moving - reminding me of Douglas Lilburn's Aotearoa Overture. I rarely find a disc of shortish orchestral works that I can play from beginning to end and then want to play the CD all over again - but that is the case here. Some may find the climax of the overture a little fast compared to Boult's more expansive reading, but it works very well in JoAnn Falletta's overal conception. In the Mountain Country and the three Rhapsodies are all beautifully performed with a fine piano contribution from Benjamin Frith in the F sharp major Rhapsody. All these works, dating from 1921 to 1944 show Moeran at the hight of his powers and are a terrific introduction to Moeran's atmospheric and moving music. He was indeed a great composer and a seriously underrated one. All credit to the fine Ulster Orchestra. Atmospherically brooding cover art and informative notes from Paul Conway complete an outstanding release which is not to be missed.
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Vaughan Williams wrote 'In the Fen Country' - a symphonic impression : Jack Moeran wrote 'In the Mountain Country' - a symphonic impression. It was also titled Cushinsheeaun. Many good things have come out of the early years of the twentieth century in the collection of English and Irish folk songs and dances. Moeran was one such collector and now (1921) he could write music of great originality for himself. JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra give a vital performance of this work. Also from that tradition of English song and dance the Rhapsodies No 1 and 2 are full of that Vaughan Williams influence spiced with Delian harmonic sense. Lovely listening! But among the works with a claim to write Jack Moeran's name high - Rhapsody in F sharp for piano and orchestra. This is like a mini piano concerto (17 minutes long). Benjamin Frith gives a knock-out performance of this work. In it there are also hints of French and Spanish music and dance rhythms It repays repeated listening. Very different is the Overture for a Masque written in the Welsh Marches in war-time this work is full of patriotic excitement, expressed for the soldiers attending concerts. Although these five works may be relatively short, they are great.
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on 9 January 2014
JoAnn Falletta has said that since becoming conductor of the Ulster Orchestra one of her most extraordinary discoveries has been the music of E J Moeran, whom she declares to be "without question one the greatest English composers of the twentieth century". Long standing Moeran enthusiasts such as myself have always thought that of course!

Falletta has already given us much acclaimed recordings of Moeran works, including his wonderful Cello Concerto. Now she has turned her attention to the three Rhapsodies, the Overture for a Masque and, what is believed to be Moeran's earliest orchestral work, In the Mountain Country. In this second disc she has, I feel, exceeded her achievement on that first CD, excellent though that was. The present programme opens with the sparkling and exhuberant overture. This is certainly not the most profound work that Moeran wrote; it was not intended to be, written, as it was, to be performed at concerts for troops during the second world war. As Paul Conway writes in his excellent booklet notes, Moeran's intention in this piece was to primarily entertain, and this he most certainly achieved. The composer himself said that he had made it "snappy and exciting" for his intended audience, and in this performance it is most certainly all of that. It also contains a quiet and reflective folk-like passage of great beauty typical of its composer.

Folk-sounding themes are much to the fore in the second work on this disc, In the Mountain Country, but as so often in Moeran's music these are entirely original. Vaughan Williams took it as a great compliment when his song Linden Lea was thought to be a folk song arrangement. The same compliment can be extended to Moeran many times over, so completely did he absorb the idiom and influence of folk tunes which, along with Vaughan Williams, Holst and others, he collected and wrote down with great dedication and enthusiasm. It is difficult to imagine this work being given a better performance than it receives on this disc.

The First Rhapsody was dedicated to Moeran's teacher John Ireland and in it Moeran most certainly built on the experience gained in writing In the Mountain Country, creating a work on a much larger scale and for a larger orchestra. Again JoAnn Falletta's performance cannot be faulted. The Second Rhapsody is brimming over with good and memorable tunes and is wonderfully orchestrated. Again an excellent performance. The Third Rhapsody is almost a small piano concerto, again full of good tunes, but as in all Moeran's music, there is also great beauty and profound feeling. Naxos stalwart Benjamin Frith is the excellent soloist.

The recorded sound is the work of Tim Handley and Phil Rowlands and, as always, they produce excellent results, taking full advantage of the splendid acoustics of Belfast's Ulster Hall. If you are unfamiliar with Moeran's wonderful music then give yourself a treat and buy this superb disc. You will probably end up sharing JoAnn Falletta's enthusiasm for this truly great composer.
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on 22 October 2014
Excellent evocative performances of superbly constructed music by a composer who can only be more and more highly rated as time passes.
The dreary, academic game of "who learnt from whome" is irrelevant at this distance in time; How much did Moeran learn from/copy Vaughan Williams, is just as pointless as asking how much Vaughan Williams learnt from/copied Ravel. Moeran is a very sincere, sensitive composer with a distinctive, highly personal style who, most often, works in what can only be described as 'Musical watercolours'. I think it probable that if you like Vaughan Williams that you will also like Moeran.
In this recording the conductor JoAnn Falletta is totally 'inside' the mind of Moeran and is quite outstanding.
The pianist Benjamin Frith is superb and always plays 'within' the music and does not dominate, or thump away unmusically with tinny, harsh tone as is so often the case these days.
Technical quality of the recording is excellent, but, as usual, ( and this is a very minor 'niggle' in this case) I wish that engineers would leave the selective level controls alone, or have the results double checked by good, academic musicians before final selection version for mastering.
This is an excellent gem of a recording at a give-away price.
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on 27 January 2014
I've heard several works by Moeran and if you like the English pastoral style of RVW then you should try this work. A much neglected composer who deserves more attention.
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on 14 December 2014
Beautiful, if less well known, music by one of my favourite 20th century British composers.
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on 12 December 2014
Very good recording .Argos recording go from strength to strength
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on 3 March 2014
JoAnn Falletta's interpretation of the Moeran scenario is refreshing - if perhaps a little too 'new' for me to settle down with just yet, as the scores open with an unusual beginning, reminding me of 'The Masque of the Red Death' film made quite a few years ago by Hammer Films. That certainly evoked the passions of the 'dark arts' to quite a large degree.

Hearing the other Rhapsodies is quite a different contrast to the pictures of mountain country terrain seems to me, an almost schizophrenic experience, if one is expecting the drift of countryside echoes, combined with 'folk music' (there is quite a bit of it - unique to Moeran), that I wasn't sure whether to celebrate with a glass of (Irish) whisky, or drown my sorrows in the music!

That, however, is my subjective experience! I would recommend it highly if you want something quite different from the usual Delius/Gardner clique. I'm not quite sure what Falletta had in mind with all this - except to say it certainly gives it a stunning run off - if bizarre one! Try it!
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on 29 July 2015
Unusual pretty much what I expected to hear
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on 13 March 2014
Whilst not a fan of Moeran, as he come from the same period as Holst, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius it is interesting to hear his different voice and detect the influences.
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