(1997, CD )
Molto vivace - Lento sostenuto
Andante grazioso - Presto
"I have started a String Trio and if I can
keep it up I hope the purgative effect of this kind of writing may
prove permanently salutory...It is an excellent discipline in trying
to break away from the mush of Delius-like chords...Perhaps some
good has come of being abed and unable to keep running to the keyboard
for every bar"
Moeran, Letter to Peter Warlock, 1930
the three riotous years house-sharing with Warlock in Eynsford
between 1925 and 1928, during which time Moeran's musical output
almost completely dried up (by 1926 he was considering giving up
music completely), Moeran started to pick up the pieces of his compositional
career. His early prolific work rate was never to be quite matched
again, but with such a long time away from writing, he began to
reconsider his style and aspirations.
When in September 1929 a motoring accident left him
with a long convalescence in bed in Ipswich, Moeran first began
to write music straight from the head, rather than at the keyboard.
With time on his hands, a rash of new material started to appear
- The Seven Poems of James Joyce,
Six Suffolk Folksongs and the Magnificat
and Nunc Dimitis among them.
Far more important, though, was the Sonata
for Two Violins of 1930, a fifteen-minute three-movement work
which is the immediate precursor to the String Trio, itself described
by Geoffrey Self as "a work of consummate technical mastery...the
first masterpiece of his mature style". The Sonata explores
a new, leaner style of polyphonic writing, in an apparent bid to
be rid of the Delian "mush". If, as Self suggests, the
Sonata is "interesting", the Trio is "a masterpiece
revelling in the freedom bestowed by newly acquired technical skills."
The opening movement is largely a lively, lyrical
one, making brilliant use of the 7/8 meter Moeran holds to throughout.
Yet inside this there is a dark heart, a section of bitter, disturbed
writing over a cello ostinato, which, though it passes quickly,
suggests more to come.
The second movement is a bleak Adagio of unrelenting
sorrow. Whether this was in any way a response to the terribly-felt
loss of Warlock in December 1930 is hard to determine, but surely
if it was an emotional response to any one event the suspicion must
The third movement, a grim fugal scherzo, has a relentless
energy running throughout it, a brutal, at times almost mechanistic
drive only occasionally leavened by moments of light, before slowing
and transforming into a bridge section leading directly to the final
The opening of the final movement, a gently reflective
Andante, recalls immediately the lyricism of the first movement
- indeed Self finds elements of very free variation linking the
two. There still seems to be a shadow of regret falling over the
harmonies, until finally the music bursts into a wild, Presto jig,
which whirls itself into a concluding flourish.
It seems almost too easy to cast this piece as something
of an elegy to Warlock, and perhaps it is, though the opening quote
proves Moeran was already working on it before Warlock's death.
Yet as the first work to be completed post-Warlock, and coming so
soon after the two great friends had spent more than five years
in close and regular contact, it would not be surprising for Moeran
to respond to finding the life of such a great talent, and such
a close friend, being snuffed out apparently by his own hand. Moeran
wrote later about Warlock's bouts of bleak depression - is the dark
mood of the central movements here an attempt to explore musically
what his friend had been through mentally? If so, does this leave
the finale as a kind of drunken danse macabre, a celebration of
Warlockian black humour?
"a work of consummate technical mastery...the
first masterpiece of his mature style"