(1993, CD )
East London Chorus
(songs 1,3,4,6 only)
Redbridge RRCD 1021
(1990, CD )
of first performance -
Musical Times, 1934
Disc review from Gramophone Magazine @ Amazon
Songs of Springtime
- Under The Greenwood Tree
- The River-God's Song
- Spring, the Sweet Spring
- Love is a Sickness
- Sigh no More, Ladies
- Good Wine (William
- To Daffodils (Herrick)
was pleasantly surprised recently to be in a conversation
with someone I'd just met who, when I mentioned this web site and
my interest in matters Moeran, immediately exclaimed: "Oh -
he wrote Songs of Springtime, didn't he? We sang that in our choral
society!" The choral society in question must be a good one
- early reviews question the practicality of the work (see reviews,
left)- its difficult chromaticism and awkward jumps from song to
song without instrumental pitch assistance giving even the best
choirs something to really get their teeth into.
Songs of Springtime was among Moeran's first post-Warlock
pieces, though there seem to be differing opinions as to exactly
when it was written - Geoffrey Self has it written in 1929 in his
text, but 1930 in his list of works; Barry Marsh's Chronology
dates the first sketches to Spring 1931*, while Malcolm Rudland
states in the Chandos sleevenotes that the cycle was "finished
in the spring of 1929", going on to say: "He told Hubert
Foss (Compositions of E J Moeran Novello 1948) of the importance
of keeping the songs in order, especially the last, because by the
time of its composition, the daffodils on the Lawns of Lingwood
had begun to peer within range of his bedroom."
Which ever way you look at it, though, this was a
crucial period in Moeran's musical development, moving away from
his Delian 1920's influence towards the mature style of later large
scale works, and it's interesting to see where this particular piece
draws its main influences from. The words are all poems from the
Elizabethan age, yet Moeran's settings do owe more to the influence
of Delius than his later song cycle, Phyllida and Corydon, which
pastiches (to a degree) the madrigal style. Many of the Elizabethan
settings of these words would have been known to Moeran, albeit
"filtered through" Warlock, as Self puts it. However,
Self finds something of an Ellington blues influence, alongside
Delius, in some of these pieces - though
you might have to listen quiet hard to hear it!
Malcolm Rudland's notes effectively summarise the
seven songs thus: "Under The Greenwood Tree portrays a feeling
of irony, whereas The River-God's Song and Love is a Sickness move
like Dowland's lute songs, the latter in an intense G minor [notably
the key of Moeran's Symphony]. Warlock dedicated his solo song Sigh
no more, Ladies to Moeran in 1928. Moeran's part-song reply, although
influenced by him, offers a more popular response, as is Spring,
the Sweet Spring, (also set by Britten in his Spring Symphony).
Good Wine fits the words like a glove... Herrick's To Daffodils
cast a shadow over the work, symbolising that all beauty must die."
* In response to this dating
question Barry Marsh notes:
"I'm sticking out for 1931 because this was the
period when Jack was recuperating from a long illness at Ipswich
and had gone to stay with his parents at Lingwood, near Acle. Cyril
Pearce, the Norfolk gentleman whom you hear on the documentary [that
Barry made for Radio Norfolk], also told us that it was in 1931
that he visited Jack at Lingwood and he was at work on the Songs.
Remember that my chronology dates where possible give the date of
first sketches/composition, not just the first performance or publication.
So first sketches 1931 - yes!!"
"by the time of its composition the
daffodils on the Lawns of Lingwood had begun to peer within range
of his bedroom"