Augener, 1936



Maggini Quartet
(1997, CD )




Further Writing






String Trio (1931)

Allegretto giovale
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


After 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 fall there.

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 movement.

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"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database