Moeran: Symphony in G minor (CD Review)

Also, Sinfonietta. David Lloyd-Jones, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.555837.

By Karl W. Nehring

Anyone who has bothered to take a look at my photo (which was taken a few years back, by the way) has no doubt surmised that I am not a fellow still in the bloom of youth. When it comes to recordings, I sometimes find myself searching my memory to try to recall whether I have once owned this or that symphony or whatever--and yes, I have occasionally brought home an interesting-looking CD only to discover that I already had a copy of it gathering dust on a shelf or in some pile stacked up somewhere in my terminally messy listening room. In the case of this Naxos recording of the Moeran Symphony in G minor, however, I knew for certain that I did not have a duplicate CD tucked away somewhere.

What I remembered was that way back in the day (late 70s/early 80s, when I was in grad school) I once owned an LP version of the Moeran Symphony in G minor and that I had liked it.  I believe the record label was Lyrita, although I probably had a Musical Heritage Society version (plain white covers – remember those?) rather than the original Lyrita--I just cannot remember after all this time. I do recall that the disc-mate was the same as on this Naxos release, Moeran's Sinfonietta, which means I must have had the version recorded by Sir Adrian Boult. Over the intervening years, I had never picked up a CD version of the Moeran, but for whatever reason, one day a short while back I suddenly found myself remembering that I had enjoyed the work and deciding to look into picking it up on CD. Further disclosure: I could not even really remember what I had liked about the symphony. I recalled that it was British, that it was pleasant, and that I had not heard it in ages. I seemed to recall that it was rather slow, quiet, dreamy music, and that I had also enjoyed the Sinfonietta, although I could not recall anything about it. When I logged into Amazon and found a used copy of this Lloyd-Jones CD recording available for $0.86, I of course immediately placed my order.

David Lloyd-Jones
My first surprise was that the Symphony in G minor is neither really slow, nor quiet, nor what I would describe as dreamy. No, it is an energetic work, pulsing with tuneful phrases and insistent rhythms. The opening movement is lively and playful, outgoing, yet reflective. Moeran was interested in folk tunes, and you can sense that as you listen to this lively Allegro. The second movement, marked Lento, is more brooding, although "brooding" may be a misleading term. This is not Shostakovich-like anguish, it is more like the brooding sighs of someone who is weary after a long hike in nature, someone reflecting on the beauty he or she has seen, but also recalling the evidences of death and decay found along the way. The third movement, marked Vivace, seems to have been influenced by the music of Sibelius--not that there is anything wrong with that. It is lively, spirited--but there are still moments of reflection and wonder. The final movement, marked Lento – Allegro Molto, begins in reflection but gather steam as it moves along, finally ending with assertive chords that bring back memories of the ending of the Sibelius Fifth without sounding plagiaristic. I humbly admit my brief sketch of this work is not very illuminating, but I must say that if you are a fan of the symphonies of Vaughan Williams, then you will probably really enjoy this symphony by Moeran. It is a gem.

The Sinfonietta is also well worth a listen. Playful and exuberant, it is arranged rather unusually: a theme and six variations are sandwiched between an opening Allegro con brio and a closing Allegro risoluto. Once again, the music is by turns playful and introspective, but always colorful and tuneful.

The recorded sound captured by the eminently reliable engineer Mike Hatch is well-balanced and enjoyable. There is no sense of this being a sonic spectacular, just a well-recorded session of some truly enjoyable orchestral music.

KWN

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa