Published

Chester, 1943


Recordings

Margaret Fingerhut,
Vernon Handley,
Ulster Orchestra:

1 - c/w Symphony


2 - c/w Rhapsodies 1 & 2 & In The Mountain Country

(1989, CD )


John McCabe,
New Philharmonia Orch., Braithwaite:
Lyrita SRCS 91
(1977, LP )

 

Reviews

 

Further Writing

"New Music" by Robin Hull (1946)

 

Audio

At Moeran.com:
Excerpt

 


 

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Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1942-3)
R79

The Rhapsody in F sharp minor* for Piano and Orchestra is almost, but not quite, Moeran's Piano Concerto, written shortly before the Sinfonietta which wasn't quite his Second Symphony. It was written as a Proms commission (following an earlier suggestion from Arnold Bax that Moeran write something for piano and orchestra) for the pianist Harriet Cohen to play. It was first performed at the Royal Albert Hall on August 19th, 1943, a concert later reflected on by Lionel Hill:

"I waited impatiently until at last Miss Cohen entered to applause and sat down at the piano, adjusted her stool, looked to the conductor - and the Rhapsody sprang to life.

Real Audio

From the Chandos recording by Margaret Fingerhut with Vernon Handley conducting the Ulster Orchestra, the opening:

Piano Rhapsody (30")

"I had studied the piano reduction score of this work during previous weeks; nevertheless, I was captivated by the triple-time entry of the cellos and double basses, followed by the piano's dramatic statement of the first theme, and as the performance continued I became enthralled by the spell that this composer could weave. There was a juxtaposition of violence and lyricism that I was later to know was typical of the man himself. There was also a pervading sense of nostalgia for the pastoral scene of long ago - something whose roots lay deeper than folk music itself."

Geoffrey Self points out that Moeran, despite initial scepticism, grew to quite enjoy the work himself - unlike some of its contemporaries. Having writen in October 1943 "to my certain knowledge, it contains more than its fair share of tripe", eleven months later he was to confess "I find I was wrong, and I really think that after all it is a very good effort on my part. It seems now so virile and logical."


Pianist Harriet Cohen

Written with a wartime audience in mind, the piece is both immediately accessible and requiring of considerable showy virtuosity. Geoffrey Self calls it a 'large-scale waltz', albeit one for which the composer claimed to have found the inspiration in the 'four-ale bars of Kerry'. Certainly for an unchallengng, attractive introduction to Moeran's music, this fifteen minute piece is hard to beat. As Self notes: "for this work and one or two others of about the same time, there was to be a looseness of construction and relaxation of manner which was not inappropriate to the aim - a popular work for the delectation of Proms audiences in wartime." This 'looseness' was to be significantly tightened up when he came to the Sinfonietta of 1944.

 

*Note - from Barry Marsh: "Barry Collett, conductor of the Rutland Sinfonia, performed the Piano Rhapsody with Margaret Fingerhut in Leicester in EJM's Centenary Year 1994. Both came to the firm conclusion that the piece should be re-titled 'Rhapsody in F sharp minor' - indeed a study of the score would seem to support this, that much of the music veers towards the minor, rather than major keys."

 

 

"I was captivated by the triple-time entry of the cellos and double basses, followed by the piano's dramatic statement of the first theme, and as the performance continued I became enthralled by the spell that this composer could weave"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database