Symphony Orch., David Lloyd Jones (2002, CD )
Orch., Handley (1987, CD )
New Philharmonia of London,
Sir Adrian Boult,
Lyrita SRCS 70
(1975, LP )
(1973, LP )
(1942, 78s, reissued on Dutton CDAX 8001
Moeran's own sleevenotes
W H Mellers' attack
Moeran and Stenhammer -
two Symphonies too alike?
Symphony in G minor
Lento - Allegro molto
only symphony was started in 1924, but
abandoned and only taken up again ten years later, being finally
completed in 1937. It contains some of Moeran's darkest and most
brooding moments, and despite the levity of his brilliant (and it
has been said, unique to British music) Scherzo, the final conclusion
is one of bitterness.
A variety of interpretation have been put on the
symphony, including many references to a perceived similarity to
Sibelius, and yet further examination by Geoffrey Self suggests
Moeran is also passing comment on works by composers as diverse
as Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Ultimately, however, it is the
firm fingerprint of Moeran himself which defines his longest piece
From a concert given in 2001 by the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra
- the complete work to download in quality MP3:
Unlike the Violin
Concerto which followed it, and perhaps offers answers to the
questions posed in it, the evocations of landscape and mood are
often so bleak as to suggest that in this work Moeran is for the
first time confronting some of his own darkest ghosts, those he
has apparently avoided comment on in his music up to this point:
his experiences of the First World War. Without doubt Moeran had
a particularly bad time during the war, and was left with a head
injury which never allowed him to forget his trauma, and which probably
contributed to his untimely death in 1950. However, during his time
in military service he was also stationed in Ireland, and this gave
him his first taste of the country he came to love so much.
Thus the third movement,
which itself is a brief interlude at less than half the length of
any of the other movements, may in some way be representative of
Moeran's place of escape during the war. Other pointers to this
hypothesis can be heard in the end of the first movement, where
after a long, brooding section carried by the horns an almost mechanistic
rhythm breaks out, and the movement ends on a series of percussive
strikes which might surely be representative of gunfire.
From the 1973 recording by Neville Dilkes
and the English Sinfonietta, the opening of the first movement:
During the second
movement we hear an episode which, it has been suggested, is reminiscent
of rippling water, seemingly offering a moment of calm in this dark
and troubled music. Yet, if one is to push further the war idea,
a re-examination of this section can also suggest the freedom of
air flight: the twisting this beautiful and light section into something
dark and sinister then becomes a commentary on humanity's ability
to take a wonderful new invention and turn it to destructive use.
Moeran had a love of all things mechanical, indeed, Lionel Hill
described how Moeran could identify a steam locomotive by its sound
alone, and one can only wonder at his feelings when such marvels
of the age were put to wartime use.
This idea of flight
returns in the final movement, where a bitter wind seems to blow
through the flutes, one which serves to heighten the tension slowly
mounting in the tympani before finally breaking into the six percussive
cracks of the end of the work.
Geoffrey Self's analysis
of the work in his book, The Music of E. J. Moeran comes to a similar
conclusion, albeit through a different and more thorough musical
analysis. He shows the use of a folksong, The Shooting of His Dear,
to hold some of the melodic keys to the symphony, and in particular
homes in on the line "for young Jimmy was a fowler". Self writes:
"Could there not be a loose allegory here of a young soldier
- Jack [Moeran} rather than Jim - called by duty to the war, his
illusions of military chivalry and nobility to be shattered by the
awesome reality of the sordid carnage and its bleak aftermath."
In addition he believes the Symphony to be "some kind of Requiem
or In Memoriam".
Certainly its bleak
outlook remains unresolved in this work, and perhaps one does need
to look to Moeran's next major work, his Violin Concerto, begun
almost immediately after the completion of the Symphony, to find
Moeran's personal answers to the problems raised here.
here for a print formatted version of this text
"contains some of Moeran's darkest
and most brooding moments"