Tuesday, 30 September 2008

E.J. Moeran: An Early Appreciation

I recently posted an article from the December 1924 edition of the Chesterian journal about the composer C.W. Orr. In the January number there was a similar introduction to the much better known (now) composer E.J. Moeran. It is worth re-publishing this, as it appears to be one of the earliest notices of the composer’s life and achievements.

On the programmes of recent chamber music concerts in London [1], a comparatively unfamiliar name has appeared frequently enough to awaken a good deal of curiosity among music lovers. It was the name E.J Moeran. Those who actually heard the performances of the works in question – a String Quartet and a Violin Sonata- soon felt their curiosity ripen into interest, and they proved anxious to know more of, and about, a composer who had, unknown to them, obviously long passed the stage of mere promise.

E.J. Moeran was born at Spring Grove, in Middlesex, on December 31st 1894. His father was an Irishman, and his mother a member of a Norfolk family. He was educated at Uppingham from 1908 until 1912, when he left school in order to study at the Royal College of Music [1913]. In 1914, he joined the army, serving throughout the War, with the exception of a period in 1917, when he was wounded at Bullecourt.

E.J. Moeran has lived a great part of his life at Bacton, in Norfolk, and he spent much time in collecting folk-songs there, a selection of which appeared in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society for 1923.

It is a curious fact that a composer, who now displays such a remarkable maturity at an age when many others are still groping after means of expression, should have heard no serious music in his childhood. Until the age of fourteen he did not know the sound of a full orchestra, and it was about the same time that he first made acquaintance with chamber music and choral works, drawn almost entirely from the classics. This was at Uppingham, then one of the few public schools where music was taken seriously, and where a complete Symphony was studied and performed every term.

At this time, E.J. Moeran began to study the piano, having previously received some elementary training on the violin. He made his first attempt at composition at the age of seventeen, and this was, significantly enough, a String Quartet. Since then he has written a considerable number of chamber works, practically all of which he considers worthless and prefers to withhold from the public. The String Quartet now in the press is his fourth work in that form, and he wrote two Violin Sonatas before he set to work on the one now published.

Apart from chamber music, E.J. Moeran had written some works for piano (published by Messrs. Schott & Co.), the most important of which is a set of Variations, and two orchestral works [2], one of which, a Rhapsody, was performed by Sir Dan Godfrey at Bournemouth at the Easter Festival of 1923, and will again be heard at Manchester on January 24th, under the direction of Mr. Hamilton Harty.

The Chesterian January 1924 p124.


[1] Possibly refers to the concert at the Wigmore Hall on Jan 15th 1923.
[2] Probably In the Mountain Country, 1921 and Rhapsody No.1, 1922; or possibly the Rhapsody No.2, 1924

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