Published

Novello, 1947

 

Recordings

Bournemouth Symphony Orch., David Lloyd Jones (2002, CD )

Northern Sinfonia, Hickox
EMI CDM 7 64721 2
(1989, CD )

Bournemouth Sinf..
Norman Del Mar
Chandos CHAN 8456
(1986, CD )

London Philharmonic,
Sir Adrian Boult
Lyrita SRCS 37
(1968, LP )

Philharmonia Orch.,
Sir Adrian Boult
Carlton Classics
(1996, from a 1963 BBC recording,
CD )

LPS., Beecham
(1946 broadcast,
Digital restoration to download )

 

 

Reviews

Gramophone Magazine reviews

Further Writing

Robin Hull - 1948

Musical Times - 1950

 

Audio

Full recording

Extract

 


 

Home

Sinfonietta (1944)
R83

 

Allegro con brio
Tema con variazioni
Allegro risoluto


"The first performance of the Sinfonietta is fixed for the B.B.C. Symphony Concert on March 7th, with Barbirolli as guest conductor. Thank God we have escaped Boult for it!"

Moeran,
Letter to Lionel Hill, 16th Dec 1944

The Sinfonietta, or "small Symphony" as Moeran occasionally referred to it, was a product of his rush of creativity in 1944 - his "bumper year" had also seen the completion of the Overture for a Masque and the cycle Six Poems by Seamus O'Sullivan.

The Sinfonietta stands almost alone in Moeran's orchestral repertoire, a piece in which he quite deliberately attempts to forge new forms and develop new ideas - here more than anywhere is Moeran as innovator. Geoffrey Self describes clearly how at this stage in his life Moeran was somewhat isolated amongst his contemporaries style-wise, as one of the last of the 'true romantics', and suggests the Sinfonietta is Moeran's push 'to get up to date'.

Real Audio

From the Chandos recording by Norman Del Mar and the Bournemouth Sinfonia, the opening to the final movement:

Allegro risoluto (30")

The Sinfonietta is scored for a small orchestra more akin to that of late Haydn than the full romantic battery, and Moeran uses this comparitive leanness to achieve a sense of clarity and space. Where other composers, and Moeran himself elsewhere, might be tempted to fill out or even pad out their orchestration, Moeran frequently demands a sparsity that illustrates true mastery of sonic space. Fifteen years later Miles Davis's jazz recordings turned to the same philosophy - here what is left out can be as telling and important as what is played.

The Sinfonietta is quite a concise work. Moeran is frequently notable for the economy of his developments and ability to say what needs to be said in a relatively compact manner. Thus his 'small symphony' lives up to this description not only in orchestration but also in duration, lasting a little over 20 minutes.

MP3 Audio

Lionel Hill's restored recording of Beecham and the London Philharmonic in 1947, the full piece:

Allegro con brio
Tema Con Variazioni
Allegro Risoluto

See also full page item

Composed largely in Kington, close to the Welsh borders, the Sinfonietta also differs from Moeran's preceding major works in its general lack of 'Irishness' - indeed, Lionel Hill describes the first two movements as 'boistrously English in feeling', though there is perhaps something Irish in the liveliness of the third movement, which was mainly written in County Kerry.

Lionel Hill recounts: "He took us out beyond Radnor by train, and thence by bus to a spot fromwhich we climbed up and up, seemingly aboove the world, until the ground flattened out to give us superb views for miles around in all directions. I remember Jack pointing and saying, 'Over there is Elgar country, and there, Housman country... The inspirations for my Sinfonietta came to me up here, especially the middle movement, which should be played at a brisk walking pace - as we are doing now."


The landscape around New Radnor

Barry Marsh has suggested that further to this there is evidence in the final movement of the type of encounter Lionel Hill went on to describe - to paraphrase, he and Moeran were approached and wild mountain ponies, "prancing, frothing beasts", as he describes them, with no place to escape to. Fortunately they were left alone - Moeran was unconcerned, despite knowing of the deaths of previous walkers caused by these ponies, but Hill was pretty shaken. Could there be evocation of these wild ponies in the last movement? Barry elaborates and strengthens this thesis by bringing into play the bell-ringing figure heard in the same movement as a nod to A E Housman's poem, 'Bredon Hill' from 'A Shropshire Lad':

In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear. [etc.]

 

Pete Lopeman wrote eloquently about the Sinfonietta on the Moeran mailing list:

"The Sinfonietta's compact nature (in both form and orchestra size) makes it for me almost perfect (in a kind of Mozart/Haydn way). The opening movement's strong melody and rhythm carries me along all the way. It is landscape in music, it is colour in sound - loads of green and orange. The second movement is a brisk walk and even a jog (didn't EJM mention that it should be taken at a walking rhythm?) with the sights, sounds and open skies of Herefordshire. The third movement is like coming down from a long hill walk - trotting and tripping over one's feet when you can see the pub down below in the valley. EJM's masterly use of timpani (to me his signature) gives it urgency and strength. The final few bars which end the Sinfonietta have a comical sense which reminds me of Mozart's 'A Musical Joke' K.522..

I'm not sure about it being EJM's masterpiece (although that tag is attached to it, I know) but it's surely a beautiful piece which to me shows a mature and confident composer at ease with himself and the world."

 

 

 

 

"The inspirations for my Sinfonietta came to me up here, especially the middle movement, which should be played at a brisk walking pace"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database