Tuesday, 8 April 2008

E.J. Moeran: Prelude for Cello & Piano

The Prelude (1941) was Moeran’s first piece which he dedicated to the cellist Peers Coetmore. It was gifted to her as a ‘keepsake’ whilst she was on tour with ENSA during the Second World War. Strangely, the first performance of the piece was in Alexandria in Egypt. They were later to become married - but that is another story. Three other compositions were to be dedicated to her: the magisterial and moving Cello Concerto, the Irish Lament and the Cello Sonata.

This is a simple yet profound piece. A broad and lyrical melody in major and 4/4 time is played over an extremely simple accompaniment. Common chords and sevenths are the staple harmonic feature. The tempo is ‘Adagio ma non troppo’ throughout. Although the piece remains in the opening key, there is a brief modulation towards the middle bars of the piece. The last page is wholly diatonic.
The musicologist, Geoffrey Self does not rate the piece highly. In his magisterial study he writes “it is a work of little distinction; the cello melody is shapely enough, but the piano part is frankly dull. It is....doomed to a humble place in grade examination lists.”
Yet perhaps the ‘dullness’ of the piano part give the piece much of its charm. The sheer lyrical quality of the melody is allowed to predominate without completion from the piano. The overriding characteristic of this piece is warmth. The Prelude for cello and piano was published by Novello in 1944.

Listen to this work on Lyrita SRCD.299 The cover of this wonderful CD shows Jack Moeran and Peers on Hergist Ridge.

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