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Book Review

The Music of E.J. Moeran

The Music of E.J. Moeran
Geoffrey Self
ISBN: 0907689175
London: Toccata Press. 1986
Also available directly from publisher.
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Now available in the U.S., this overview of the music of Moeran should help promote a wider audience for his music.

My own first exposure to the music of Moeran was a recording of his Symphony. His compositional style speaks directly in a clear voice. The influences of his contemporaries like Delius are clearly present but the music has a character all of its own. Over the years I have tried to listen to most everything he wrote. While not all of it is of a consistent quality, the best of it is indeed excellent, with some of his best writing to be found in the Symphony.

Most of the works are discussed within some biographical reference, as Moeran's troubled life certainly did have a major impact on both his creativity and the success he enjoyed during his own lifetime. The insights into his complex personality adds a great deal to the value of this volume. The author also takes time to explain the possible influences to be found in the music and points out many of the references to folk music.

The analysis of each work is brief but includes historical information regarding some of the performance history and the critical reception of each work. Parts of the book seem to be written as a defense of Moeran's music, however I was not aware that it really needed defending. It is easy to see how perhaps in an earlier time when conservative English Music of the early part of this century was overlooked, that such a defense would be necessary. To my thinking that aspect of the book seems to be only an odd commentary on prejudices found in general music writing of the past which only can be found surviving from time to time in musicological circles of today.

The derivative nature of Moeran's writing is addressed in a separate chapter of the book, "The Moeran Meaning." Instead of making a good defense for Moeran, it seemed only to showcase the influences on Moeran, an issue which I find unimportant, for the music really does have a character of its own.

If you have any interest in tuneful music of the English School of the first half of the 20th Century, Moeran is a composer worth exploring and this volume will serve and a fine guide book to that exploration.

6 November 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Karl Miller.