Orchestral music

Moeran's output for full orchestra spans his entire output, and yet the sum total is not a huge amount of music. However, if it is lacking in quantity, it is certainly made up for in quality. Moeran had a wonderful gift for orchestration, and in listening one detects an easy, almost instinctive feel in the handling of the music. As such it may come as something of a surprise that he worked often so slowly on his orchestral music, and rewrote, reviewed and discarded ruthlessly anything he felt less than perfect.


Early works

During the 1920's Moeran produced several works for orchestra: his first two Rhapsodies, the second of which was reworked nearly twenty years later; The "Symphonic Impression", In The Mountain Country, and "Two Pieces for Small Orchestra", Lonely Waters and Wythorne's Shadow. Of these last two there is some doubt as to the precise dates of composition, as they were published together in 1935, although there is evidence to suggest Lonely Waters perhaps dating originally from 1924.


Symphony in G Minor

Begun in 1924 but put to one side and not finally completed until 1937, the Symphony is regarded by many as the high point of Moeran's output. It is often a dark, brooding work stretching over four movements, yet contains a delightful Scherzo in the third movement - in Moeran's own words: the sunlight is let in, and there is a spring-like contrast to the wintry proceedings of the slow [second] movement. Listen to the Symphony here



Moeran's Violin Concerto is, for me, one of the great works of this genre. If there is one piece which justifies Moeran receiving greater recognition it is surely this - a work which can swing you from delight to tears in minutes. The Cello Concerto was one of Moeran's last major works, written for his wife - the cellist Peers Coetmore - in 1945, and stands as a robust and sweeping confirmation of his compositional brilliance.
Listen to the Violin Concerto here



Moeran referred to the Sinfonietta, written in 1944, as something of an experiment: writing about the composition of the Cello Sonata perhaps two years later: I shall have to find a new idiom, as I did temporarily when I wrote the Sinfonietta. It is a three movement work in perhaps a neo-classical style, exuberant and brisk, with a degree of harmonic experimentation which adds interest without detracting from the beauty of the work. Listen to the Sinfonietta here


Other late works

The Overture for a Masque was written in 1944 for Walter Legge, who was at the time commissioning works for wartime performances at concerts for troops. Despite Moeran's initial dismissal of the work in progress as "Legge's Overture", he slowly came round to enjoying the piece: I think it turns out to be quite a good little work - what you might call athletic in style...it takes the devil of a time to write out. The Overture followed the Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra of 1942-3, where a pianist joins forces with the full orchestra for a single movement requiring great virtuosity of the soloist. Again Moeran's opinion of this work grew, from it contains more than its fair share of tripe to I find I was wrong, and I really think that after all it is a very good effort on my part. Others seem to agree, as this is now one of Moeran's most played works on the radio. The Serenade in G of 1947-8 was Moeran's last complete orchestral piece, with sections partly reworked from an earlier work which he withdrew. Based around Tudor and Baroque dance rhythms, it contains 6 or 8 short movements, depending on which version you listen to!


"Lost" Works

Other orchestral works have existed or been worked on by Moeran. Into this fall the Farrago Suite, part of which was to become integrated into the Serenade, a Fanfare for Red Army Day for a Royal Albert Hall concert in 1944 which has since disappeared, and the Second Symphony, fragments of which exist in various forms, but which he was unable to complete before his death.

©2011 The Worldwide Moeran Database

Farrago Suite (1932) R64
Symphony (1924-37)
Violin Concerto (1937-41)
Sinfonietta (1944)
Cello Concerto (1945)
Serenade in G (1948)
Symphony No 2 (lost)


In The Mountain Country (1921)* R10
First Rhapsody
(1922) R16
Second Rhapsody (1924/41) R26/R77
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1942-3) R79

(*included here as a suggested "Rhapsody No. 0")

Lonely Waters (1924?) R27
Wythorne's Shadow (1931)
Overture for a Masque (1944)
Nocturne (1934)

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