Published

Novello, 1944


Recordings

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

Mats Lidström & Bengt Forsberg,
Hyperion CDA67184
(2001, CD)

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Prelude
for Cello and Piano (1943)
R80

 


Moeran and Peers in the mid-1940s

The Prelude for Cello and Piano suffers an unfairly bad reputation. I have myself helped to malign it in my original commentary, below. Alas this was written on the back of hearing the only commercially released recording of this piece, as played by Peers Coetmore in 1972, at the very end of her career.

So when I heard another, more recent rendition of the piece, played as an encore on a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast a few months ago, I realised I ought to at least review my thoughts.

Clearly the Prelude stands outside the normal path of Moeran's musical development. In no way is this a piece which points the way for the Concerto or Sonata which were to follow it. There is little in it, harmonically or melodically, which might not have been written 100 years earlier.

So with this in mind, one should perhaps concentrate on the music outside of an historical context. Perhaps I'm a sucker for a soaring melody and a tender moment, but the more I've heard this played the more I've come to like it as a romantic miniature.

It is most easy to criticise the piano's rather straightforward chords, but given that one is concentrating on the cello this is not too bad. There are a few Moeran fingerprints on it, but again it's a piece that really stands to one side of his repertoire. When it's badly played it's not worth listening to (see below). When it's well played it's charming!

 

Original commentary

I've finally heard a rather creaky recording of the Prelude for Cello and Piano made by its dedicatee, Peers Coetmore, towards the end of her life, and featured in the fourth programme of Radio Three's Composer of the Week series for broadcast in December, 2000. I'm afraid to say I have to agree with other commentators who have dismissed it as a piece "of little distinction".

Moeran had first met the young cellist Peers Coetmore back in 1930, while visiting his friend, the painter Augustus John. It was not until 1943, when she gave a concert attended by Moeran in Leominster, that he became enchanted by the woman he would later marry. The union, though not in itself successful, was to lead to two undeniable masterpieces in the Sonata and Concerto for Cello, but with Peers constantly touring and heavily involved in war entertainments work, Moeran dashed off the short Prelude as a kind of keepsake for her.

Peers premiered the work in Alexandria, but since then it has seen little public performance, though it does serve a useful purpose as an examination list piece. While the Cello melody is reasonably promising, and might have been worked into something more satisfying over time, the plodding chords of the piano accompaniment stretched over nearly five minutes of music are eminently dull. Whether this is indicative of other Moeran first drafts is impossible to say - after all he was a composer who worked over and over at a piece before he was completely satisfied with it. Yet there seems little magic to be conjured out of this music for greater ends.

If only the music had been inspiring enough to those young cello students to invite them to explore Moeran's later writing for the instrument...

 

 

 

 

...he became enchanted by the woman he would later marry...

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database