Chamber Music

The bulk of Moeran's chamber music dates from the earliest part of his compositional output - whilst still at school he busied himself with three string quartets and a sonata for cello and piano which is said to have lasted nearly an hour! None of this music survived its composer's desire to suppress his juvenilia.

In the categorisation of his music, there is an obvious overlap between chamber music and solo music in the shape of the sonatas, and I have decided against reanalysing work from different perspectives for the time being, so some of what you read here you'll also find in the solo music section.



Moeran wrote two Trios just over a decade apart. The first, his Piano Trio, dates from his student days in 1920, though he carried on working at it for a further five years after the premiere, during which time it was largely rewritten. Perhaps a little rough around the edges, it remains one of my favourite works. The String Trio of 1931 has been described as 'the first masterpiece of his mature style' - a pivotal work which was to lead directly to the resumption and eventual triumph of the Symphony in G minor.



Moeran wrote two String Quartets, the "first" in 1921, No 1 in A minor is delightful if perhaps reminiscent of Ravel's quartet. The 'second', No 2 in E flat, turned up in Moeran's papers following his death and was published in 1956. A publisher's note on the score suggested it was probably an early work, which has perhaps been too readily accepted as the evidence for this is at best slim. By contrast, a powerful argument can be made for at least part of the work being quite late, even as late as 1949. It was my first introduction to Moeran's music and remains a work I like to come back to over and over again.

A definite late work is the Fantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings. This interesting combination was suggested by the virtuoso oboist Leon Goossens in the spring of 1946, which within a few months had become a fourteen minute one movement success - a letter in August 1946 stated with pride "Leon only wanted to alter one phrasing mark in the whole quartet".



Moeran's three sonatas often seem to explore areas untouched by his other works. The better known of the three, those for Violin and Piano and for Cello and Piano both offer a starkness of voice not often apparent in Moeran's other work. Of great interest to historians and true Moeran nuts is the Sonata for Two Violins. Written largely from his hospital bed, this work comes from a vital time as he attempted to turn from the Delius-influenced harmonies of the 1920s and find a new voice. Despite receiving good reviews on its debut, the work has, more than any other, been the subject of neglect. In an attempt to rectify this, I have been able to track down an unreleased professional recording of this fifteen minute piece and make it available for download.Listen to the Sonata for Two Violins here

Finally we come to the Cello Prelude - a short piece for Cello and Piano Moeran wrote for Peers Coetmore in late 1943 as a first work specifically for the instrument. To quote Geoffrey Self, "It is a retrogressive piece, doomed to a humble place in grade examination lists." Well it's not as bad as all that, really!


©2011 The Worldwide Moeran Database

Piano Trio (1920-5) R6
String Trio (1931)


String Quartet No 1 (1921) R11
String Quartet No 2 (?) R98
Fantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings (1946) R90


Violin Sonata (1923) R15
Sonata for Two Violins (1930) R53
Cello Sonata (1947) R92

Prelude for Cello and Piano (1943) R80

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