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Ernest John Moeran

Ernest John Moeran

Ernest John Moeran


Ernest John Moeran (December 31, 1894–December 1, 1950) was an English composer. Moeran was born in Heston (in the London Borough of Hounslow), the son of a clergyman of Irish descent, but his family soon moved to Bacton on the Coast of Norfolk, England. He learnt the violin and the piano as a child and, from 1913, studied at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford. He received serious head wounds in World War I and this is generally believed to have contributed to mental ill-health in later life. Read more on Last.fm
Ernest John Moeran (December 31, 1894–December 1, 1950) was an English composer. Moeran was born in Heston (in the London Borough of Hounslow), the son of a clergyman of Irish descent, but his family soon moved to Bacton on the Coast of Norfolk, England. He learnt the violin and the piano as a child and, from 1913, studied at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford. He received serious head wounds in World War I and this is generally believed to have contributed to mental ill-health in later life. After the war he returned to the College to resume his studies, now with John Ireland. His first mature compositions, songs and chamber music, date from this time. He also began collecting and arranging folk music of Norfolk and other regions. By the mid-1920s, Moeran had became close friends with Peter Warlock and they lived for some years in Eynsford, Kent, notorious among the locals for their frequent drunken revelry.

For the rest of his life, Moeran was to have problems with alcohol, later joined by mental instability. After Warlock's death, he became interested in his Irish roots and began spending much of his time in Kenmare, County Kerry. He married the cellist Peers Coetmore in 1945. The marriage was not entirely happy although it inspired some of Moeran's masterpieces, the Cello Concerto and Cello Sonata. He died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Kenmare at the age of 55.

He was found in the River Kenmare and it was at first assumed he had drowned. However, an inquest later established that he had died before falling into the water. Moeran was one of the last major English composers to be heavily influenced by English folk-song and thus belongs to the lyrical tradition of such composers as Delius, Vaughan Williams and Ireland. The influence of the nature and landscapes of Norfolk and Ireland are also often evident in his music. Some of his larger-scale orchestral pieces were composed (or at least conceived) whilst Moeran walked the hills of western England, particularly in Herefordshire, and Ireland, where the grandness of the mountain ranges of Kerry inspired him greatly.

But, unlike some now-forgotten English "pastoralist" composers, Moeran was capable of conveying all sorts of emotions through his music and wasn't afraid of writing in a darker and harsher way when he felt like that. His style is conservative but not derivative. By Moeran's time, however, such style was already seen as somewhat dated and he never made a big breakthrough as a composer despite the success of the sombre, Sibelian Symphony in G minor (1924-1937), generally regarded as his masterpiece. Though he first received favourable critical attention for his chamber music and continued to compose significant works in this genre, his greatest achievements in general are to be found among his few large-scale orchestral works, including a Violin Concerto, Sinfonietta and Serenade. Recently, there has been more interest in and many recordings of Moeran's works, but many of them, such as the songs to poems by A.

E. Housman and James Joyce, still remain relatively unknown. Moeran was very interested in "folk" music, as stated above, and utilised an extensive collection of songs that he had notated in Norfolk pubs as part of his creative material. He also made great use of Irish music. The Norfolk material can be sensed in the piano works of the early 1920s, and the Irish influence is seen within the second movement of the Violin Concerto (Puck Fair at Killorglin?), but even more so in the Cello Concerto, in which fragments of Irish music, in particular "the star of County Down" (also utilised by Ralph Vaughan Williams in ' Dives and Lazarus') are evident. Another facet to the music of Moeran is the Madrigal.

He once stated to a friend that if he were ever arrested and thus forced to state his profession, he would have to say it was that of being a madrigalist. Moeran was capable of staggering harmonic invention whilst working within the madrigal form - in "Spring the Sweet Spring" the harmonies progress from those of the madrigal into harmonies of a jazz style reminiscent of Duke Ellington; full of contradictions and added - note chords. The Serenade, an orchestral work, evinces madrigalist harmony re-worked by Moeran into an astringent style in which acerbic tonal and harmonic patterns are grafted onto the madrigalist basis to produce music of outstanding freshness and originality that surely places Moeran into the genre of inventive Twentieth Century music, rather than in to the "English Pastoral School", which, in itself, is arguably a misnomer. The G Minor Symphony stands along with the First Symphony of Sir William Walton as one of the two tightest and most controlled symphonies emanating from the British Isles of the inter-war era. The Moeran work demonstrates a robust sonata form in the first movement, along with a questioning harmonic structure, which, on first examination, may appear orthodox, but which on deeper analysis indicates the dichotomy of the interval of the fifth ( which is European diatonic), with the interval of the fourth, which is both the completion of the European 5th, but also introduces the Irish dimension, in which the fourth can be the predominant interval.

More will follow. Not by any means a prolific church composer, his services in D and E flat are, however, still performed today. As a person, EJ Moeran was greatly affected by his war wound to the head, something which dogged him for life. It meant that he was unable to drink alcohol without becoming intoxicated (and he did enjoy his drink to excess sometimes). He was undoubtedly middle-class, but would be at ease in a bar surrounded by local characters from local farms. He was looked on with affection by all who knew him, and his gauche, bumbling personality belied a very sharp-witted character who was quick to learn and take up new approaches to music.

He also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of trains and train timetables. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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