1 - Allegretto giovale - 8'29"
2 - Adagio - 4'18"
3 - Molto vivace - 3'10"
4 - Andante grazioso - 5'30"
5 - Diaphenia
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
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
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
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
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
main CD page
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