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Introducing E.J. Moeran

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by techneut, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    English composer E.J. (Ernst John) Moeran may be a new name to most of you. One of the 'unsung heroes' of 20th century English music, and not played as often as he should. He wrote some likeable and grateful piano music. Except for Bank Holiday, which I heard on YouTube, I do not know how these are supposed to sound, so these interpretations are entirely my own :)

    Asmusingly, I had almost given up on Stalham River. After struggling through it twice I couldn't make head or tail of it, and I was ready to throw the printouts in the bin. But for some reason I decided to give it another chance. That was when it started to click, and now I am convinced it is a marvellous piece with a voice all of its own.

    You may hear many good influences in these pieces. Ireland, Holst, Delius, Vaughan Williams, and maybe others.

    Moeran - Stalham River (1921) (5:58)
    Moeran - Summer Valley (1925) (6:12)
    Moeran - On a May Morning (1921) (4:01)
    Moeran - Bank Holiday (1925) (2:30)

    I also created a YouTube video of Bank Holiday and Stalham River (same audio tracks) http://youtu.be/H2s_5aeQVmw
    (it is still being uploaded as I write this)
     
  2. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Well well well, what have you rustled up! i beg to differ in that he is well.known, even if he tends to be a one-work composer. His Symphony in g is quite well-represented on CD.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have not heard of this composer before. I liked the Summer piece and also the Bank piece the best. May is pretty, but maybe it has a couple too many themes in it. the Bank piece is real neat. I just wish you'd use less pedal so I can hear everything; there are a couple muddy spots.

    Mostly your playing is very nice, and I like the interesting and unexpected harmonies in the music.
     
  4. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris, just watched your video through the facebook :) I enjoyed this composer very much and thank you for posting!
     
  5. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Chris,

    I know very little of English music, particularly that of the 20th century, so it was interesting to hear these. The pieces do perhaps sound a bit structurally amorphous and rambling at times, but I must say that their sweet harmonies make for a very pleasant listen. It seems that there could be a fairly wide range of nationalistic/cultural influences. Actually, unlike the others, the Stalham River didn't sound that English (IMO), almost more French in the manner of Debussy with a touch of Messiaen (?) But maybe that's just me. The other three sounded decidedly English, the Summer Valley and on a May morning reminiscent to me of bucolic folk tunes.

    In your playing, there are some nice crescendos and climaxes as well as a fairly deft handling of the sonorities and the filigree figures (nice effect with the glissandi in the Stalham River!). Some passages could perhaps be a bit neater and rhythmically tauter, notably in the Bank, and also I agree with Monica that the pedalling is a bit swimmy, mostly there but also in passages in the Valley and River. Having a slightly lighter foot could bring out the briskness of the staccato better in the Bank. I think overall my favorite (both the piece and your performance) is the Summer Valley. That one definitely conveys the redolence of a breeze through the valley in summer.

    All in all, I much enjoyed these. Thanks for introducing this music.

    Joe
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Monica, Hye-Jin and Joe for the feedback. I sure like to play with ample pedal still, and it may be too much in places here.

    It is true that Moeran can be a bit meandering but I feel he makes up for it with good tunes, great sonorities, and innovative harmonies. There's one bar in Stalham River that sounded so weird I decided it must be a misprint and I thus played the LH in E flat instead of E natural. I find this piece very English indeed, with occasional touches of Holst, and its Irish-sounding theme in the middle (a shame he doesn't more with that theme).
    Most of the great English composers, shame on them, did not take the piano seriously, but there are many lesser-known names who wrote excellent piano music, like Bax, Moeran, Bowen, Ireland, Bridge, Baines, ... the list goes on. There are great riches to be found there, but so far the have been the almost exclusive domain of English pianists.
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, there are heaps of good 20th century English composers. I remember at one point in our record collection at home (parents' home) there were actually more English composers represented than German!

    He does tend to meander and I feel a bit of scissors would have done him a lot of good. There were moments I liked, but this tendency of Moeran's to go out in a direction that takes nowhere a bit trying. I need to listen again, maybe.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't believe these pieces are too long. I feel he is just wandering around through the English landscape, admiring all the different views even if they lead nowhere, and I feel much the same when playing. For all the English music you have listened to, you might grow to like these better.
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for looking into this wonderful music of Moeran. I enjoyed all but especially Stalhham River. A gorgeous lyrical piece. Makes one wonder where this music has been all these years!

    David
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I though you'd like these David. Moeran's piano music is not quite as cogent and sophisticated as Ireland's, but I find it quite attractive.
    I'm thinking of studying his Theme and Variations too. Such a beautiful theme !
     
  11. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    These are very pleasant to listen to, and it's always nice to put a musical face to a name, as it were. The pieces reminded me a little of some Frank Bridge, in particularly Summer Valley and May Morning made me think of his "Rosemary".
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Andrew. Bridge is a composer I have not explored yet. What I heard from him is very impressive but it did not grab me like Ireland and Moeran do for example.
     
  13. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well done! I only listened to Bank Holiday so far.

    When we stayed in the UK for a year we were at first confounded by the notion of a "Bank Holiday". For those who have not lived in the UK: those days not only the banks but also most shops and services close, for no particular reason. They appear seemingly at random and will catch you unawares unless you take care to watch out for them in the papers. Sometimes there are even double Bank Holidays (=two Bank Holidays in a row). After a while we realised that this is just like any unknown religious schedule and that you can in fact buy calendars where they are marked.

    The Bank Holidays are more times of relaxation than of jubilation. I would have expected a piece about them to be more elegant then thunderously joyful. But perhaps this was different in 1925.
     
  14. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    These are interesting and nice pieces. Especially the first is full of a joyful energy and quite virtuoso! Bravo to that performance, which seems very good to me. Excellent video with the title and the changes of camera angles.
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Joachim ! If the piece came across as thunderously joyful, I must be doing something right ;-)
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Andreas. Bank Holiday is hard work indeed, and it's not rendered squeaky clean here. But I got the spirit I think.
     

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