Published

Novello, 1933


Recordings

The Finzi Singers,
(1993, CD )

East London Chorus
(songs 1,3,4,6 only)
Redbridge RRCD 1021
(1990, CD )

 

Reviews

Review of first performance -
Musical Times, 1934


Disc review from Gramophone Magazine @ Amazon

 

Further Writing

 

 

Audio

 


 

Home

Songs of Springtime (1930)
R54

  1. Under The Greenwood Tree (Shakespeare)
  2. The River-God's Song (John Fletcher)
  3. Spring, the Sweet Spring (Samuel Daniel)
  4. Love is a Sickness (Thomas Maske)
  5. Sigh no More, Ladies (Shakespeare)
  6. Good Wine (William Browne)
  7. To Daffodils (Herrick)

 

I 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"

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