Novello, 1947



Raphael Wallfisch, Bournemount Sinfonietta, Norman Del Mar
(1986, CD )

Peers Coetmore,
London Philharmonic,
Sir Adrian Boult
Lyrita SRCS 43
(1970, LP )



Premiere, Dublin (1945)

Hallé Orchestra (1946)

Gramophone Magazine review

Further Writing








Cello Concerto (1945)

Allegretto deciso, alla marcia


In 1986, Lionel Hill wrote: "It is a complete mystery why this splendid Concerto has not been gratefully seized upon by today's cellists, whose repertoire is not extensive anyway. The work is in conventional sonata form and is one continuous paean for the cello, which is allowed to sing through the expert orchestration from start to finish, and is the final expression of all that Moeran had strived to say throughout his life."

Moeran's Cello Concerto is without doubt one of his crowning achievements, and yet it can be a difficult work to get to love. It is one of those pieces which takes time to be assimilated, time to be loved. Perhaps the opening theme is less than welcoming? Or is it rather a work yet to be done full justice on disc? For it is truly a work of great beauty, and one worth perservering with if it does not initially appeal, for ultimately the rewards are fabulous.

Real Audio

From the Chandos recording by Raphael Wallfisch and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the soaring second movement theme:

Adagio (30")

Moeran opens the Cello Concerto with a grim, jagged melody which, if it lacks lyrical beauty, does suggest an elemental harshness - one can imagine wild walks over wintry Kerry Mountains in a torment of passions as he contemplates and questions his marriage to Peers Coetmore, for whom the concerto was written. This is indeed stormy stuff, and Moeran's exquisite control of his orchestral forces allows the mournful cello to really sing out its pain. And yet there is sunlight here, glinting occasionally through his clouds, bringing brief, hopeful moments before the clouds gather again, switching from the major back to the minor and the tempestuous forces of the full orchestra. From then on in Moeran's soloist is wracked with torment and questions, sometimes introspective, sometimes thrashing out, always with the near bitterness that cuts through this entire movement. The movement ends with a brush of cold air...

This feeling is immediately picked up on the brooding, threatening opening to the second movement, which initally promises more misery, but just as one buttons down and prepares for the worst, Moeran's ability to bring light out of shadow is called to play in a theme of heart-breaking beauty. Geoffrey Self demonstrates in his book how the melody here has its origins in the first movement, yet the two could not sound or feel more different- someone in Hollywood should be using this to illustrate their great moments of loving passion! Here is the tender reward for the wild tempest of the first movement, music to melt the coldest heart, and again brilliantly scored and arranged.

[Click on the picture above to enlarge the opening bars of the second movement, in Moeran's handwritten short score]


Read and listen to the interview by top British cellist Paul Watkins on his own recording of the Cello Concerto commissioned by the BBC for their Composer of the Week programmes - the first time Paul had encountered the work:

Paul Watkins

The second movement ends with an extended section for solo cello which, in true Moeran style, sounds just like an age-old Irish folk tune, but is probably original. This links seamlessly into the final movement, where the orchestra picks up on the tune and lifts it into a rumbustuous theme for a constantly varied rondo finale. This Moeran intersperses with a variety of ideas - he wrote to Peers on 4th May 1945: "the very nature of the main subject seems to call for an insistence on the Rondo scheme. One is, I feel, fully justified in interpolating all sorts of tunes provided the movement in bound together by the main idea which in the case leads itself admirably to the purpose." Thus he is able to bring in all sorts of different meditations and episodes, and again the sun is shining - in a later letter he states: "I am longing to see what other ideas crop up as I forge ahead. I think working in bright daylight has more to do with it than anything, together with the pleasant outlook from the window facing me to the green lawn."

Lionel Hill is correct when suggesting this is a wrongly neglected work. Geoffrey Self says much the same thing: "Arguably it is a work of such quality as to place it with the concertos of Dvorak and Elgar as the finest written for the instrument. Regrettably, it is hardly known."

Perhaps the first movement is too unwelcoming at times? And yet who could fail to be moved by the second? Here is a work which, perhaps more than any other (with the relative paucity of great repertoire works for cello and orchestra), deserves its place on the international stage and the radio playlists. And of course in your CD collection and heart...




"Arguably it is a work of such quality as to place it with the concertos of Dvorak and Elgar as the finest written for the instrument. Regrettably, it is hardly known"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database