Friday, 1 June 2018

Peter Warlock queries Moeran’s Name: A Witty Thought

I first discovered E.J. Moeran on an old Revolution Record (vinyl, RCF.003) back in the early 1970s. This featured his delightful Serenade, featuring Vernon Handley and the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra. The other work was Arnold Bax’s dark, brooding The Tale the Pine Trees Knew. It was to be a few years before I discovered that Moeran’s initials E.J. stood for Ernest John, and that his friends called him ‘Jack.’ Even today writers use the initials rather than his full title. Interestingly, Moeran had a second middle-name: Smeed. It is never used in discussion.  

In in his essay on E.J. Moeran, written for the June 1924 issue of the Music Bulletin Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine) wrote:
‘I must confess that when I first encountered the name of E J Moeran in the Daily Telegraph [1] some years ago, no clear impression was made upon my mind. In the first place there is something cold and inhuman in the indication of the Christian name by a mere initial. A good tradition has ordained that composers shall be more than N or M until such time as fame bestows on them the dignity of a surname tout court. J S Bach is admissible - though the sonorous Johann Sebastian is vastly preferable; but R V Williams gives but a distorted image of a personality singularly clear in its full denomination; and the monstrosity of F A T Delius has never even been perpetrated by those who are pedantic enough to announce a work by W A Mozart.’
Philip Heseltine, ‘E. J. Moeran’, The Music Bulletin June 1924.

[1] I was unable to find any reference to Moeran in the Daily Telegraph prior to March 1924.

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