& Eric Parkin,
Lyrita SRCS 42
(1972, LP )
Lidström & Bengt Forsberg,
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!
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...