Published

OUP, 1925


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Ulster Orch., Handley (1989, CD )

 

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In The Mountain Country (1921)
R10

 

In 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 years later.

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 mastery...

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database