Exclusive Moeran CD
"A Gramophone Recital with E.J.Moeran"

 

Gramophone Recital cover


 String Trio:
 1 - Allegretto giovale - 8'29"
 2 - Adagio - 4'18"
 3 - Molto vivace - 3'10"
 4 - Andante grazioso - 5'30"

 5 - Diaphenia - 1'56"
 6 - The Sweet O' The Year - 0'48"

 Symphony in G minor
 7 - Allegro - 12'50"
 8 - Lento - 10'53"
 9 - Scherzo - Vivace - 5'02"
 10 - Finale - Lento - Allegro molto - 13'29"

 Total running time: 66'45"

Sleevenotes by Andrew Rose

The programme of music presented on this disc would all have featured in the composer's own collection, and if his own modesty had not forbidden
such a thing, it would have been quite feasible to spend an evening with Jack Moeran listening to exactly the recital presented here. All of these recordings were made during the war years that found Moeran at his creative peak, and without his untimely death in 1950 one can only assume many more would shortly have followed. As it was, there was to be a gap of some 14 years between the last of these recordings and the next outing for Moeran's music, this time on mono Long Player.

We begin our recital with the String Trio (R59) of 1931, a pivotal work in the composer's development which followed on from the Sonata for Two Violins of the previous year. This can be seen as Moeran's determined effort to forcibly get away from what he criticised in his work of the 1920's as a 'mush of Delius-like chords', with the austerity of the second movement in particular a far cry from the lush harmonies of his String Quartet (R11) written ten years earlier.

There is, perhaps, a further interpretation which can be applied to the Trio: At the end of 1930, as Moeran was nearing completion of this work, his close friend of many years - the composer Peter Warlock (Philip
Heseltine) - committed suicide. One of Warlock's last paid jobs before his death was to copy out the final manuscript of Moeran's Sonata for Two Violins (R53), and before this the two had shared a cottage in Eynsford, Kent for several years in the late 1920's. Despite much mutual support and even collaboration between them, in later years Moeran would refuse to even hear mention of Warlock. Perhaps here, in the String Trio, one can find the feelings Moeran couldn't express in words, translated into the music that aches sadness and desolation, anger and bitterness, and yet finally finds some sort of light and celebration of spirit.

This recording was made by three members of the 16-piece BBC Salon Orchestra, formed at the outbreak of World War II and based at the BBC's rural Worcestershire outpost, Wood Norton. Walter Legge, then in charge of recording at Columbia and a great champion of Moeran (he was later to commission and receive the dedication of the Overture for a Masque), made several recordings with various members of the Orchestra in Cheltenham, and on 16th May 1941 brought Jean Pougnet, Frederick Riddle and Anthony Pini together to record the Moeran String Trio. Apparently despite several recordings of each movement being made, in each case it is the inspired first take that was chosen for release across three 12" discs, Columbia DX1014-1016.

For our mood-lightening interlude, the delightful tenor voice of Heddle Nash presents us with two short songs, both of which span a single side of a 10" 1945 HMV 78, B9412. Recorded on 7th March of that year with Graham Riddle at the piano, these songs illustrate wonderfully a much-neglected side of Moeran's musical prowess - his superb song-writing skills. That one of our greatest song-writers is so ignored
by singers today is a tragedy, and one can only hope for some kind of enlightenment soon. Both songs have temporal connections with the two instrumental works here. Diaphenia (R72) was written in the same year that Moeran completed his Symphony, and in it we hear tenderness and real beauty in the handling of the text.

By contrast The Sweet O' The Year (R61), written in the same year as the String Trio, is full of the spirit and verve of springtime, quite the opposite in tone to the Trio. These two short songs illustrate well but
a small part of Moeran's quite marvellous and extensive song-writing abilities.

Moeran's Symphony in G minor (R71) was the result of many years' artistic struggle, and is by far the most substantial work in his output. Commissioned in 1924 by Hamilton Harty, the composer gave up on
it in 1926, feeling himself not yet ready for the task. An unpublished overture of the time, drawn from material Moeran was working on for his Symphony, shows clearly that when in 1934 he came back to the work, he was to carry on developing many of those original themes. There are a number of interpretations which can be put on the ideas behind the Symphony, and unlike works such as the second movement of the Violin Concerto (R78), where Moeran consciously goes about depicting the scene
at Puck Fair in County Kerry, he was careful to only leave vague suggestions as to the Kerry and Norfolk landscape inspirations behind the Symphony.

Yet from the pounding rhythms of the outset one immediately is drawn to other images - is this a response to the horrors Moeran experienced serving in World War I, another subject on which he was reluctant to speak and in which he sustained a severe head injury? Clearly this thought occurred to the TV producer Bill Skinner in his superb 1971 documentary for RTE, where he uses precisely this music to illustrate that part of Moeran's life story (and later returns to the Symphony with the landscapes of Norfolk and Ireland). Geoffrey Self came to a similar conclusion in his book "The Music of E. J. Moeran" - albeit by a different route - with his attempt to relate the Symphony to an earlier song, The Shooting Of His Dear (R23e), and unearth hidden meanings therein. Certainly there does seem to be a black cloud hanging over much of the work - with the exception of the third movement, a light scherzo with perhaps no parallel in English symphonic writing. And yet one can so easily come to completely different conclusions: Consider Moeran's enthusiasm for the age of steam, and listen again to his first movement as a thrilling train journey - as Lionel Hill relates in "Lonely Waters, the diary of a friendship with E J Moeran" Moeran could identify any steam engine, as he states, from "the beat of the engine; every engine is an individual with its own sound."

Leslie Heward had conducted the première in January 1938, and when in 1942 the British Council instigated a new series of recordings to promote British composers, Moeran's Symphony had the great honour of being the first work to be recorded under their auspices, in Manchester on 25th and 26th November and 1st December 1942 with the composer present, albeit not at the conductor's request! Still, Moeran pronounced himself pleased with the outcome: "The Symphony has had such a performance as it never had before." It was released across six 12" discs as HMV C7566-7571 in January 1943, coupled with Rawsthorne's Four Bagatelles for Piano.

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Recordings restored by Pristine Audio

©2011 The Worldwide Moeran Database

 

 

This brand new CD is not available anywhere else!

Bringing together the vintage Moeran recordings for the first time ever on one CD!

More information:

String Trio page
Vocal Music page
Symphony page

How the CD was made
Lyrics to songs
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Symphony notes:
Moeran's sleevenotes
Symphony attacked!
Stenhammer link?
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Live MP3 recording