Notes by Robin Hull
Penguin Music Magazine (1948)
Few orchestral works
of recent times have enjoyed a more well-deserved success than E
J Moeran's Sinfonietta, of which an excellent near-miniature score
is now published. The score provides a capital instance of a work
that won cordial opinions at the outset, and whose significance
has been confirmed in the light of later performances.
It was widely recognised from the first that what
seemed to be occasional (though of course unconscious) echoes of
Sibelius are purely incidental to a composer whose cardinal individuality
is beyond dispute. Still, it is a point of elementary fairness to
pin down what may strike the listener as Sibelian affinities, even
if these amount to singularly little, and then give the chapter
and verse to which any composer is entitled.
It must suffice here to mention two examples. The
first comes at Fig. 12 (1st mvmt.) where the woodwind phrases, whose
material has already been introduced, crystallize in a manner which
Sibelius has certainly made familiar. The second occures at Fig.
56 (3rd mvmt.) where the following run of semi-quavers may bring
to mind a feature of the Sibelian method, though, one need scarcely
add, nothing of any manner or matter except Moeran's own.
The cumulative effect of such affinities strike me
as almost negligible, and worth mentioning only because these points,
if evident at first hearing, require that the perceptive listener
shall place them in the correct perspective. For the rest, there
is little need to stress the resounding originality of a work whose
fame has become established far outside our own country.
The 'Theme and Variations' (2nd mvmt.) have a richness
and resource whose imaginative eloquence has seldom been exceeded
by any composer in recent times. And the score, taken as a whole,
proves yet again that, in the expression of sheer beauty, Moeran
can bring to bear an inspiration reaching supreme heights.
Penguin Music Magazine No. 5, 1948
New Music - Robin Hull