Moeran Concerto for Violin, Rhapsody for Piano



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"Handley's shaping of cantilena is often magical and Georgiadis explores the crest of the work's lyrical and furtive heart with considerable sensitivity. He is noticeably successful at heart-stopping pianissimos and at his deft interplay with orchestral principals. Handley too, abetted by the Lyrita engineering team, brings out the bold bass writing and those moments of percussion dash. It all adds up to a distinctive and distinguished reading, one that still excites admiration." Jonathan Woolf, *** PENGUIN GUIDE 2010

First up is the Rhapsody No.2 (for orchestra), which attempts to use as its material tunes with a specifically ‘national’ inflection, and for Moeran, that meant Ireland. There is a nice romantic tune at the centre which to my ears has an Irish ‘twang’, and it is surrounded on either side by other, quicker melodies, whose rhythmic variation adds to the rhapsodic flow of the piece. The orchestra play very well for Boult, and the recording is splendid.

The violin concerto is unjustly neglected, as is all Moeran’s work, and this performance does it full justice.
John Georgiadis, now a successful conductor and one-time leader of the LSO, is technically first rate, and plays with an inwardness and expressive beauty that rather eludes the very fine Mordkovitch. In the Lento third movement, his playing (and the orchestra’s) is beguilingly beautiful, and at times quite takes my breath away.

The disc concludes with the Rhapsody in F sharp, a nineteen-minute work that followed on a year after the Violin Concerto. Whether it is a Concertante work or a sort of mini-concerto is, to my mind, neither here nor there. It was written when Moeran was at his compositional peak, and can be enjoyed as such. It might be that its length makes it a difficult piece to program – too short to occupy the central concerto slot, and thus not very attractive to pianists, and if this is the case, it’s a pity, because it is an attractive piece. It plays in one continuous movement, divided into three sections, and was composed, at Bax’s suggestion for Harriet Cohen. Moeran is said to have designed it so that the finale would rouse a proms audience to cheers. That said, the finale follows on suddenly from the piano’s poetic musings in the lovely slow central part, with a ten second accelerating section for solo piano, melding into the accompanied coda lasting a mere 1:08. I feel that those fireworks are too short to achieve the sustained propulsive drive needed to really get an audience going, although, of course, they might well respond enthusiastically to what has gone before. As with the preceding pieces, the recording is very fine and the soloist and orchestra are on top form.

The booklet notes are fine as one is used to from Lyrita. This is an excellent CD and has given me much pleasure.

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