The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (196): By special request

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (196): By special request


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2020

Our recent posts of songs by Gurney and Warlock has prompted several requests for something by the pipe-smoking E J Moeran. Who knew such loveliness lay behind that lugubrious exterior?



  • Herbie G says:

    Very welcome! Moeran’s music has enjoyed a revival on CD, with plenty of fine recordings. I have always had a soft spot for it. His life was dogged by misfortune; wounded in WWI, with shrapnel lodged in his brain, he suffered from personality disorders that led to a spell of alcoholism and abrasive behaviour giving rise to extreme embarrasment when he appeared in public. Much of music is suffused with nostalgia and melancholy. Late in life, he married Piers Coetmore, a cellist, but his marriage was probably not consummated and they never lived together as man and wife; while she was touring the world giving concerts, he was wandering around with no permanent home. He was finally shacked up in an abandoned air-raid shelter in Kenmare, Ireland, where he was found one morning face-down in a river; the post-mortem showed that he wasn’t drunk at the time he died but the probability was that the shrapnel in his brain had become dislodged and precipitated a severe brain haemorrhage. He was only 56 years old.

    Moeran, virtually an eccentric vagrant lacking self-confidence, couldn’t ingratiate himself with the movers and shakers in the musical fraternity so never achieved the recognition he deserved. It may be that his estrangement from society engendered the heartache so often encountered in his music.
    Try his Cello Concerto, written for his wife, who recorded it for Lyrita long after his death. Her technique is, not to put too fine a fine point to it, not of the best, but the pathos in the first two movements and the forced jollity of the folksong-inflected finale are well to the fore.

  • Bruce says:

    Well, some people did, since they told you about it…

    But I didn’t, so thanks.

  • one of many reasons i love reading your blog, Norman is the vocabulary: thanks for the ‘lugubrious’ this time!:)

    • Bostin'Symph says:

      It was nice to descry those lugubrious lineaments at this crepuscular hour. Nice music too.

      I hadn’t realised what the word ‘bumptious’ meant until I read it in Norman’s book on Mahler, referring to Rattle’s interpretation of the 2nd Symphony. I was quite put out, knowing it was not going to be complimentary, though when I looked it up, I had to concede he was right! Thanks, Norman, for educating us 😉

  • Mike Carter says:

    A shame hat his grave in Kenmare in Ireland is so poorly maintained.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Never heard that before and it’s very pretty thanks Norman.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A beautifully expressive song and brilliantly made: direct simplicity in the service of true feeling. It is a masterly gem.

  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    This is beautiful. There is a lot to be said for Moeran’s concertos, symphony and Sinfonietta too. They are all excellent.