Friday, 4 January 2019

E.J. Moeran: Rhapsody No.2 – a performance footnote.

E.J. Moeran's Rhapsody No.2 was commissioned for the 1924 Norfolk and Norwich Centenary Festival and given its premiere there in 31 October. The composer conducted the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra. In 1941 Moeran tinkered with the orchestration, presenting it for a smaller orchestra. 
The work opens with a typical, folk-like tune for bass clarinet which is apparently based on a Norfolk melody called ‘Polly on the Shore.’ (Not Molly!) Despite this, the general mood of this work is once again that of an ‘Irish’ Rhapsody. It has been suggested that nearly all tunes want to turn themselves into jigs. There is a lovely deeply-thoughtful middle section with a broad tune which just makes the goose-bumps rise.  I am not convinced by the suggestion that this piece is less worthy than Moeran’s other Rhapsodies. If I am honest it is my favourite of the lot. 

In his thesis Ian Maxwell (2014) provides as detailed list of Moeran performances between 1920 and 1929. This information was ‘extracted’ from newspapers and musical journals. Maxwell notes a performance of Moeran’s Rhapsody No.2 on the BBC (2LO). He states that it was broadcast on 5 May 1925 and was conducted by Dan Godfrey Junr. The orchestra is declared ‘unknown.’
I found the concert listing in the Radio Times (1 May 1925). First things first. The orchestra was The Wireless Symphony Orchestra (which under Adrian Boult would become the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930. This concert was a live relay the studio. It was not broadcast from the Daventry transmitter.
The concert began at 8 pm with a performance of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, No.2. The soloists were S. Kneale Kelley (violin), Frank Almgill (flute), John Field (oboe) and Ernest Hall (trumpet). This was followed by the first London performance of Moeran’s Rhapsody No.2.  In the interval, a short reading was given from ‘Philemon’s’ book of essays From my Window.
The second half of the concert featured the cellist Beatrice Harrison (cellist) in a performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Concerto for violoncello and orchestra. This section of the concert concluded with Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor.  
At 10pm there was the nightly ‘Time Signal from Greenwich, the weather forecast and the 2nd General News Bulletin. After this, Scottish naturalist Professor John Arthur Thomson presented a short talk: ‘Scenes from the Drama of Animal Life.’
Music fans were fortunate in having a further delight. With the return of Dan Godfrey and The Wireless Symphony Orchestra the evening’s classical selection concluded with Alexander Tcherepnin’s delightful Suite from the Ballet ‘Le Pavilion d’Armide.’  Finally, night owls could ‘swing’ to The Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Bands relayed direct from the Savoy Hotel in London.

Maxwell, Ian, The Importance of Being Ernest John : Challenging the Misconceptions about the Life and Works of E. J. Moeran (Durham University, 2014)

Moeran, E.J., Rhapsody No. 2 in E major with Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra and Violin Concerto, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult, Lyrita SRCD 248 (original LP release Lyrita SRCS.43 with Cello Concerto and Overture to a Masque)

Moeran, E.J., Rhapsody No. 2 in E major with Rhapsodies Nos. 1 and 3, Overture for a Masque and In the Mountain Country, Ulster Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta, Naxos 8.573106 (2014)

Moeran, E.J., Rhapsody No. 2 in E major with In the Mountain Country, Rhapsody No. 1, Serenade and Nocturne, Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley, Chandos Classics Chan 10235 (2004) (original CD release: Chandos Chan 8639) (1989)

The Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley version of Rhapsody No.2 has been uploaded to YouTube. (Accessed 11/11/2018). It is the second part of the file beginning at the 12-minute point.

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