Orch., Handley (1989, CD )
In The Mountain Country
The Mountain Country was Moeran's first published orchestral
work, and, as far as can be ascertained, his first attempt at writing
any full orchestral piece. Remarkably for a piece so early in Moeran's
output there are definite links to Ireland to be deduced, even if
musically there are few clues.
Moeran originally entitled the work "Cushinsheeaun:
symphonic impression", which even if it shows nothing on the
web search radar, if nothing else sounds Irish! (Actually, further
research suggests Co. Mayo, which he first visited in 1918 - see
Chronology. He also dedicated the work to the great Irish composer
and conductor Hamilton Harty, whose
persistence with Moeran eventually resulted in the magnificent triumph
of the Symphony in G minor some sixteen
In Geoffrey Self's view, "In The Mountain Country
reflects that nature-worship characteristic of other music of the
period", citing Vaughan Williams'
Pastoral Symphony as a near contemporary work, and suggesting a
titular affinity at least with his "In The Fen Country", which one
has to admit is pretty striking.
The Mountain Country of County Kerry
But looking beyond timing and naming to the music
itself we find something of a paradox. Moeran's two preceding works,
the Piano Trio and the
First String Quartet,
are both works bursting with exuberant musical ideas and vibrant
melodies, yet the present work shows none of this. As Self says,
"the crippling handicap of the Moeran is the dullness of its
principal idea." It's hard to put it any better. This master
of the lyrical melody appears to come seriously unstuck here.
And yet his orchestral writing and textures, supposedly
those of a first attempt, shows an amazing degree of mastery. Both
in texture, harmony and counterpoint ideas it shows genuine invention
and apparent expertise; if only the core material had matched up
to the technique.
Once again, Self puts this ultimately rather forgettable
work firmly in its place: "...Moeran aspires to mountain music
and his earth-bound and wooden little tune does not have in it the
potential for ecstasy...and thus can never soar to reach that rapt
contemplation of nature in solitary splendour which we would reasonably
expect from the title." Perhaps he should have stuck to the
more abstract Cushinsheean.
...his orchestral writing and textures,
supposedly those of a first attempt, shows an amazing degree of