Getting Started
A CD buyer's guide

Click here for eight essential discs reviewed!

It's always difficult to know where to start if you're coming to a composer for the first time, and although Moeran's overall output was not extensive by comparison to others, there is still quite a body of work. As the aim of this site is not only to add to the enjoyment and knowledge of existing Moeran lovers, but also to help introduce new listeners to hitherto hidden delights, this short guide should help point you in the direction of currently available recordings.

I've split the reviews into logical sections, as with the site itself, and suggest you start with the area you're most likely to enjoy and build up from there. In my case it was Moeran's chamber music, but if it's a large orchestral sound your looking for scroll the page down a little further and start there.

Note - See also individual work pages for star ratings for all recordings

Chamber Music

This is what started me off as a Moeran devotee - via the string quartets and quintets of other early 20th century composers such as Fauré and Ravel. In fact, Moeran's string quartets do owe quite a debt to Ravel's offering, albeit with a somewhat Irish flavour - in a concert of his chamber music at the Wigmore Hall in January 1923 he was not afraid to offer Ravel's quartet alongside his own and his Violin Sonata.

Whilst the Piano Trio of 1920 is one of my favourite works, and comes on an excellent disc on ASV (Catalogue Number: CDDCA1045 ) coupled with the String Quartets and the Fantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings of 1946 at £11.99, I really have to recommend the budget priced Maggini Quartet's disc on Naxos (Catalogue Number: 8554079) as the best five pounds you'll ever spend. This pairs the two String Quartets with the String Trio of 1931 - a fascinating work that sits on the cusp of Moeran's mature development of style.

Piano Music

This is a simple choice - given that there is currently only one disc available and it is indeed excellent. Eric Parkin's 1994 CD of the Complete Piano Works (Stafford, Catalogue Number: JMSCD2) covers all of Moeran's published solo piano music, spanning the years 1919 to 1933, and does so admirably. The recording quality is good, if a little low-level and there is a slight degree of background noise form the room when you turn up the volume. On the whole the pieces are relatively short - only the Theme and Variations of 1920 exceeds 10 minutes in length, with the majority coming in at around 4 minutes or thereabouts. In general the music is welcoming rather than challenging, much of it showing the influence of John Ireland. Piano music lovers should really have a copy of this £11.99 disc in their collection.

Orchestral Music

At first site this seems a simple category to fill. Although the Chandos recording of the Symphony (Catalogue Number: CHAN7106), coupled with the highly accessible mid-forties Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra is tempting at £8.99, I would have to plump for the double bill of concertos first. For the same price you get the Violin Concerto and Cello Concerto, plus the Two Pieces for Small Orchestra, Lonely Waters and Whythorne's Shadow on an excellent disc, also from Chandos (Catalogue Number: CHAN7078). The playing of soloists Lydia Mordkovitch (violin) and Raphael Wallfisch (cello) on both of these concertos is excellent, and the Violin Concerto must rate as Moeran's most immediately accessible large-scale works. Buy this one first, then move onto the Symphony - or better still try both! Don't forget that a much earlier recording of the Violin Concerto is available to listen to in full on this site - click here.

But where to go next? Do we head for the Sinfonietta? Or perhaps the earlier orchestral Rhapsodies? And what about Moeran's final orchestral work, the Serenade in G of 1948? At this point it becomes more a matter of personal taste. The Serenade is not considered Moeran's finest hour, though the £11.99 1990 Chandos recording (Catalogue Number: CHAN8808) which restores the two movements removed on the insistence of Moeran's publisher does much to improve the work's reputation. This disc also includes the beautiful, Delian Nocturne of 1934 and works by Moeran's friend Peter Warlock - Capriol Suite and Serenade, and seems a more satisfying coupling than the recording of the shorter, published version on EMI (Catalogue Number: CDM7647212) at £8.99, which also includes the Sinfonietta and works by Gerald Finzi. The Sinfonietta I found a little hard to really get to love, especially in this recording, but I know others feel quite differently.

As for the Rhapsodies, well they're certainly tuneful and enjoyable. Moeran's first two Rhapsodies are both relatively early works, though the second was revised in 1941, and at times one suspects Moeran is still honing his talents - there are some great melodies to be found, but occasionally they are let down somewhat by overall structural difficulties. On the Chandos CD (Catalogue Number: CHAN8639) that brings all the Rhapsodies together, you also get another early orchestral work, the perhaps less successful In The Mountain Country of 1921, for £11.49, but if you've taken my advice and bought the Symphony you'll already have this recording of the Piano Rhapsody. The recordings are good, but in musical terms much of this is probably second tier by comparison to the Symphony and Concertos.

Vocal Music

Here the choice becomes more limited - as you can see from the list to the right there is a dearth of recordings, particularly with the songs. The only work for orchestra and choir, the Nocturne, was noted earlier. But lovers of vocal music need not despair, as the Chandos CD (Catalogue Number: CHAN9182) that brings together the lovely Songs of Springtime of 1931 and madrigal-esque Phyllida and Corydon of 1939 together with a selection of works by Warlock is an excellent introduction to both at £11.99. The unaccompanied Finzi Singers do great justice to works which are often taxing for any choir. At the moment I await my disc of the folksong collections, so can't offer comment on these, and as for individual songs, well I suggest following the links and seeing what else is on the disc - often a single Moeran song is slotted amongst a set of others which you may or may not want.

 

©2011 The Worldwide Moeran Database


Orchestral Works
Symphony (1924-37)
Violin Concerto: 1 2 (1937-41)

Cello Concerto (1945)
Sinfonietta (1944)
Serenade: 1 2 (1948)
1st Rhapsody (1921)
2nd Rhapsody (1925/41)
Piano Rhapsody: 1 2 (1942-3)
Lonely Waters: 1 2 (1924?)
Wythorne's Shadow: 1 2 (1931?)
In The Mountain Country (1921)

Chamber and Solo Works
Piano Trio (1920-5)
1st String Quartet: 1 2 (1921)
Violin Sonata (1923)
String Trio (1931)
Cello Sonata
(1947)
Oboe Quartet: 1 2 3 (1946)
Piano Works
(1919-33)
2nd String Quartet: 1 2 (?)

Vocal Works
6 Folksongs From Norfolk (1923)
Songs of Springtime
(1931)
6 Suffolk Folksongs (1931)
Nocturne
(1934)
Phyllida and Corydon (1939)
Other Songs 1 2

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Lionel Hill - "Lonely Waters"

Geoffrey Self - "The Music of E J Moeran"

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