Moeran • Ireland

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Moeran/Ireland
LABELS: Dutton
ALBUM TITLE: Moeran/Ireland
WORKS: Sketches for Symphony No.2 in E flat (realised and completed Martin Yates); Overture for a Festival (orch. Rodney Newton): Allegro; Sarnia: An Island Sequence for Orchestra (orch. Martin Yates)
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7281

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Following his great G minor Symphony, Moeran wrestled for a decade with a Second, conceived apparently as four-movements-in-one along the lines of Sibelius Seventh. His faith in it fluctuated widely, and his sudden death in 1950 left only a confused, unfinished short-score draft, with many gaps. Martin Yates’s heroic realisation of a performing version cannot be, he says, ‘the one that Moeran would ultimately have written’, but it’s an effective and sometimes thrilling presentation of the material.

Some of that material, such as the Sibelian Scherzo and the Irish landscape-influenced Adagietto, is of high quality: though, oddly I felt that the most cogent section was the Dionysiac finale, where Yates had the smallest amount of genuine Moeran to work with. If this is not quite a resurrection like Anthony Payne’s of Elgar’s Third Symphony, it was still worth doing, and adds to our knowledge of the struggle against adversity that’s enshrined in much of Moeran’s output.

Moeran’s Overture for a Festival from the 1930s at least survives as a complete piano score and proves, in Rodney Newton’s idiomatic orchestration, to contain prototypes of ideas Moeran used later in his Symphony and Serenade. This stimulating disc is completed by Yates’s rather technicolour but enjoyable orchestration of Ireland’s piano masterpiece Sarnia. Yates directs performances of brio and enthusiasm, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra sound as if they’re revelling in every bar. The recorded sound is excellent, too.

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Calum MacDonald