Published

Novello, 1948

Recordings

Raphael Wallfisch
& John Yorke

(1994, CD )

Peers Coetmore
& Eric Parkin
Lyrita SRCS 42
(1972, LP )

 

Reviews

Musical Times (1949)

 

Further Writing

 

 

Audio

At Moeran.com:
Excerpt

At Amazon:
1st movt
2nd movt

 


 

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Sonata for Cello and Piano (1947)
R92

Tempo Moderato
Adagio
Allegro

 


"I have just spent all day yesterday on cello sonata proofs. You know I don't usually boast, but coming back to it, going through it note by note, and looking at it impartially, I honestly think it is a masterpiece. I can't think how I ever managed to write it."

Moeran, in a letter to Peers,
Kenmare 1948


If one is to go along with the prevailing view that the Moeran's Serenade in G of 1948 is the first indication of his final decline, an opinion which is weakened when the work is considered in its original full form rather than the abbreviated published score, then without a doubt the Cello Sonata of 1947 is Moeran's final masterpiece. As the quote above shows, even the ever-modest composer felt rightfully proud of his work, though naturally his self-deprecation comes through.

This Sonata follows the Cello Concerto and, before that, the Prelude, in the trilogy of works Moeran wrote for his new wife, the cellist Peers Coetmore. There may have been any number of reasons why the marriage itself was not a success, but as a trigger for the Concerto and Sonata, lovers of Moeran's music can only be glad that, having 'given my word as a gentleman', Jack went through with the marriage and then put all his creative efforts into creating music for his new wife.

Moeran had written to Peers in 1943: "There are wonderful things we could do together in creating music, not only concertos and orchestral work, but chamber music." It is difficult to precisely track the development of the Sonata and Concerto. With a number of commissions to complete, Moeran had knocked out a short and somewhat undistinguished Prelude for Cello and Piano in 1943, as a 'keepsake' while she toured abroad. It seemed initially that his next work for Peers, following the completion of the Sinfonietta would be the Cello Sonata, and work apparently started on this in February 1944, but then he turned to the Concerto, which was finished by the following year.

Geoffrey Self's analysis in his book "The Music of E J Moeran" suggests similarities in the musical ideas in the first movements of both major cello works indicate some sort of joint conception. Indeed, he identifies a melodic 'cell' idea common not only to these two works, but also used in both the Symphony and the Violin Concerto. Self goes on to say: "It is now possible to see that this melodic cell is one which Moeran had been toying with for most of his creative life." Self goes into great detail, and certainly his close analysis is highly recommended to students of this work and of Moeran generally - I shall not attempt to paraphrase him here!

What is worth lifting word for word from Self's book, however, is his conclusion:

The Sonata for Piano and Cello is the ultimate prize at the end of Moeran's long journey and apprenticeship, absorbing and rejecting and eventually crystallising a language and technique fit to express the deeply personal thought of what he knew to be his masterpiece. The concentration of thought is such that it would be difficult to find a redundant sound; whatever criticisms may be sustained of other works, whether of technique or of derivation, they fall to the ground here. If nothing else of Moeran had survived, we would know from this Sonata that he was among the finest composers of his time.

This fulsome praise echoes the reception the Sonata received on its completion - in the Musical Times of December 1949, A.H. wrote: "Every piece of this work is genuinely impassioned, and one cannot find a point at which the interest flags or the material belongs to a miniature conception...since Delius's Cello Sonata, there seems to have been no better work in the romantic and rhapsodic style that so well suits the cello."

 

 

"If nothing else of Moeran had survived, we would know from this Sonata that he was among the finest composers of his time"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database