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

 

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...a richness and resource whose imaginative eloquence has seldom been exceeded by any composer in recent times...