(1984, CD )
Musical Times, Feb
Allegro non troppo
Vivace e molto ritmico
Sonata for Violin and Piano premiered at the same concert
at London's Wigmore Hall as the First
String Quartet, written in 1921, and of the two seemed to get
the better reception, the reviewer in the Musical Times commenting~
"the Allegro of the Sonata shows a great advance, for its impetuosity
is not hampered by technical obligations, although these are met
as consciously as we have a right to expect in a modern sonata"
Geoffrey Self describes the work as having "a thrusting
passion", and goes on to suggest that, were it not for the influence
of Peter Warlock, this work may well point the direction in which
Moeran's music would have headed. The music certainly is thrusting
and passionate, and displays a level of dissonance greater than
much of his output. At first hearing one might find it hard to recognise
as a work by Moeran, until a few chinks of typical lyricism find
their way out, moments of vaguely folk-like music. But easy-listening
There's an intense brooding surrounding the first
movement, in its relentless minor key augmented by broad Ireland-esque
chromatic piano accompaniment. This is leavened by the second subject
somewhat - providing those chinks of daylight - before finally ending
in a whirling frenzy up towards a quite unexpected major chord.
The brooding is intensified in the slow second movement,
though again Moeran uses a contrasting second subject, this time
with a pronounced Aeolian mode accent to bring relief from the dissonant
chromaticism that runs through most of the material. A characteristic
of much of Moeran's music throughout his life is a section of wonderfully
bright, lyrical music, radiant with warm sunlight, suddenly having
a shadow cast over it and turning dark, even bitter. This seems
to be operating in reverse in this piece. The moments of light are
brief, and bring the dark, rugged edges of the majority of the music
into a kind of relief.
The final movement, a "complex and energetic rondo"
(Self) launches itself with great vigour. Elsewhere in Moeran's
work a theme in 9/8 time might be expected to rapidly evolve into
some kind of jig; the tone here is jagged. Self suggests an inspiration
in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and
in the pounding rhythms of the final movement this comparison seems
more than justified. The harmonies too are among the harshest Moeran
ever wrote, leading a reviewer in 1924 to plead: "must we really
have ninths and ninths all the way...?".
At around eighteen minutes the Violin Sonata is not
a long work, and is perhaps unfairly neglected. Self cites it as
Moeran's first real masterpiece, the culmination of his student
days, a piece apart from his other early work. As both a violinist
and pianist, perhaps it's to be expected that Moeran would be able
to write well for the combination, and it's a real pity he was apparently
never inspired to try his hand at a second such work.
It seems hard to come by recordings of it, though
the 1982 Chandos recording by Donald Scotts and John Talbot (CHAN
8465) is worth tracking down. Be warned, however - if you've heard
the two more recent recordings of the First String Quartet that
accompany the Sonata on this disc you may well be disappointed with
the somewhat lumpen rendition given here by the Melbourne Quartet.
The moments of light are brief, and bring
the dark, rugged edges of the majority of the music into a kind