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MOERAN: String Quartets / String Trio



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Ernest John Moeran(1894-1950)


String Quartet in Eflat major


String Quartet in Aminor


String Trio in G major



Ernest John Moeranbelongs to the generation of British composers that flourished in the firsthalf of the twentieth century. He was born in 1894 into a family of Anglo-Irishorigin and was sent to school at Uppingham, where Joachim was an occasionalvisitor. His studies at the Royal College of Music were interrupted by the war,in which he was seriously wounded, and his health and later stability seem tohave been seriously affected by his injuries, when a piece of shrapnel lodgedin his brain. He resumed his studies at the Royal College under John Irelandafter a brief period of work as a schoolmaster at Uppingham. Ireland remained astrong influence on his composition, as was Delius and, it might be supposed,his friend Peter Warlock. Other influences may be found in the landscape andfolk-song of his native Norfolk and in those of the country of his forebears,Ireland, where he died in 1950. His earlier work included songs and chambermusic that earned him favourable attention, while the 1930s brought a change ofdirection, notably in his First Symphony, a work suggesting theinfluence of Sibelius that given its first performance in January 1938, after aprolonged period of gestation. In 1945 he married the cellist Peers Coetmore,for whom he wrote his Cello Concerto, followed by other works for theinstrument.



Moeran's StringQuartet in E flat major is apparently an early work, its manuscriptfound among the composer's papers by his widow after his death. It opens with afirst violin theme of pastoral suggestion, then a transitional passage ofgreater range and excitement, followed by the gentle second subject. Thecentral development of this sonata-form movement brings shifts of tonality,cross-rhythms and elaboration of texture, as the second violin and cello offeran arpeggio accompaniment, before the viola leads into a quieter mood. Theoriginal key returns with the first subject in recapitulation, duly followed bythe second, which leads to a rapid coda of repeated notes, gradually dying awayto a softly sustained tonic chord. The opening phrase of the viola, in thesecond movement, is at first answered strongly by the other instruments, thenin softer tones and for a third time by a very soft D major chord. Therefollows the introduction to a folk-song-like theme in that key from the firstviolin, succeeded by a passage of greater vigour that leads to the final Vivace.

This is opened by the rhythmic repetition of a single note by the mutedsecond violin. A thematic fragment is heard from the muted first violin,imitated by the viola before the unmuted cello proposes a theme, echoed byviola and second violin in turn, in the compound rhythm of the first movement.

This is followed by the first violin with its own thematic material. There is achange of key from E minor to E major and a change of pace and rhythm, marked Allegretto,moving, with other changes of tonality, to a muted Andante and afinal duple metre Allegro vivace.



Moeran's StringQuartet in A minor was written in 1921 and dedicated to the Belgianviolinist Desire Defauw, founder and leader, as a refugee in London, of theAllied Quartet, a war-time creation, with Charles Woodhouse, Lionel Tertis andEmile Doehaerd. The work is dominated by the characteristic features of Englishmusic of the period, drawing heavily on material that suggests or openlyre-states, in its modal implications, native folk-music. The first movementallows the cello the first statement of the principal theme, echoed by theviola, before the first violin continues, going its own way. There is a modalsecondary theme, proposed by the first violin and subsequent changes oftonality and texture, as the material is explored and expanded, before stridentchords re-establish the key and the viola leads to a hushed conclusion. Theviola has the principal theme of the E major slow movement, before the firstviolin takes it over. There is a brief outburst of excitement in the centralsection, before peace is restored with the full return of the main theme. Thequartet ends with a Rondo, its principal theme, repeated to provide aframe-work for intervening episodes, again suggesting English folk-song in itspentatonic contours and alternation of 6/8 and 3/4 metres. It is the secondtheme that is allowed to move into F sharp minor, and thence, more easily, intothe tonic A major for a triumphant and very emphatic conclusion.



Moeran completed his StringTrio in G major in 1931. Dedicated to the Pasquier Trio, it has beenregarded as marking the height of his achievement at this period.



The first movement, inthe unusual metre of 7/8, which brings an inevitable and here irregularvariation between triple and duple rhythms, again allows the violin to proposea folk-like theme of pentatonic suggestion. A passage over a murmured rapidcello accompaniment, marked misterioso, leads to a secondary theme,providing the material from which the movement develops. The A minor Adagio,marked ben sostenuto, unwinds gently enough until the cellointroduces a moment of stridency leading to a fragment of violin melody againsta viola accompaniment that provides occasional clashes of gentle dissonance.

The opening material returns, now in a remoter key, before the modal finalcadence. The viola starts the modal third movement, in a tonality of E minor,with an insistent rhythm that continues as a dominant element, taken up by theviolin and then by the cello. The viola provides the final bars, as the musicslows to allow a sotto voce and slow foretaste of the final Andantegrazioso, in which related material is developed until the folk-song of thePresto, with its rapid accompanying figuration and final even fasterjubilant ending.

Facts
Item number 8554079
Barcode 636943407929
Release date 12/01/1999
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Composers Moeran, Ernest John
Moeran, Ernest John
Orchestras Maggini Quartet
Maggini Quartet
Disc: 1
String Trio
1 Allegro moderato ma ben animato
2 Lento - Vivace - Allegretto - Andante - Allegro vi
3 Allegro - Lento - Tempo primo
4 Andante con moto
5 Rondo: Allegro vivace
6 Allegretto giovale
7 Adagio
8 Molto vivace - Lento sostenuto
9 Andante grazioso - Presto
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