Iris Loveridge

E.J. Moeran, Gordon Jacob: Piano Music

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This Lyrita reissue of recordings of the piano music of E.J. Moeran and Gordon Jacob not only reintroduces the music of those two composers, but also pianist Iris Loveridge. She was an English, mid-twentieth century pianist who specialized in the music of her contemporaries and fellow countrymen, such as these two composers and Arnold Bax, among others. The Moeran pieces are very pianistic at their most conceptual, but more often are very picturesque, often referencing the modes and moods of folk music and scenes. Having similar translucency and color, and landscape-like perspectives, Moeran's music falls somewhere between that of Bax's and John Ireland's, the latter being one of his teachers. He seems to have absorbed the lessons of earlier music and made them his own. The Theme and Variations is more structured than the character pieces here, yet still sounds steadfastly ancient and joyful, almost playful, at times. The Three Fancies alone call for crashing chords, swift glissandos, controlled pianissimos, or uneven rhythmic figures -- which the liner notes relate to the music of François Couperin and Béla Bartók -- but nevertheless, Loveridge makes them completely evocative of wide-open countryside, as much so as the other obviously named sketches here. Jacob's sonata is slightly more dissonant and much more abstract than Moeran's music, but the way in which it completely utilizes the piano and remains thoughtfully expressive is on a par and makes one wonder why Jacob didn't write more for the instrument. Loveridge brings an impishness to the scherzo and contemplation to the first and third movements, while the final movement is a challenging physical workout that combines an almost jazz-tinged nimbleness with occasional chordal pronouncements in a thoroughly mid-century modern way. Jacob dedicated this Piano Sonata to her, and it's a testament to her abilities and sensibilities that she is so comfortable with it and the Moeran pieces that they sound almost free-formed and naturally spontaneous under her hands. The one drawback to these recordings is the sound. It's listenable, but not the greatest, even for its era, with a tin-canned quality that doesn't do the music or Loveridge any favors. Still, it's enough for the music and Loveridge's playing to leave a positive impression.

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