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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 December 2002
-- especially if you take music of this particular school more seriously than I do. The disc is almost worth getting for the liner notes, which could have been written by Miss Jean Brodie herself. I learn from them that Moeran suffered a head injury in the war 'an injury that, until his death, had the unfortunate effect of making him appear drunk after even very small quantities of alcohol'. Deeply unfortunate, that. He may have decided that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, because he fell in with Peter Warlock and his boozy crew ('at Eynsham in Kent, then more rural than now'). All until his death, of course. After it the issue presumably ceased to bother anyone. Another insight is that 'the Cambridge composer Patrick Hadley...like Moeran, a railway enthusiast...claimed to hear...sounds of the Great Eastern expresses....Other commentators, however, have, equally persuasively, heard this as sea music.' They could probably have heard the passage in question as an impressive start at Brand's Hatch or as the crowds milling into Oxford Street for the start of the sales or a thousand other possibilities -- the problem is inherent in music that is vaguely representational: you can usually hear it more or less how you like. The purely musical side is surely more significant, and the symphony is (sadly to my ears) rather dependent on folk music, mainly English but also featuring in the finale The Irish Tune (is there more than one?). My heart missed a beat when I read the name Housman on the back of the record box, but happily this is only name-dropping -- it seems that Moeran was 'also' inspired by Shropshire. To the best of my knowledge he was guiltless of inflicting weak-tea musical settings on that marvellous poet unlike some I will not name, largely because I cannot remember a single note of their settings.
The sinfonietta interests me more because of what I hear as a distinct change in the composer's idiom. I think I detect the healthy influence of Walton who, as Constant Lambert said, got away from the cowpat school of English music. That was really played-out it seems to me (it was a bit of a bore at the best of times) and perhaps Moeran thought so too. This disc might have rated 4 stars but for some iffy orchestral playing in the first movement of the symphony that would have been worth retaking. One can't live on a symphonic diet of Beethoven Brahms Mahler Sibelius etc all the time, and these works are agreeable examples of a minor genre. The liner notes also say of the sinfonietta that 'no deep philosophical issues are addressed'. For that relief much thanks say I. The more music stays true and exclusive to itself and the more it steers clear of all that nonsense the better I tend to like it. Music, pure music, is really a far more significant thing than most issues I can think of.
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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