Ernest Moeran

English composer (1894-1950)
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Ernest Moeran (born Heston, Middlesex, England, 31 December 1894; died 1 December 1950) was an English composer.

Early life


Moeran (pronounce: “MORE-an”) was born in Heston, to the west of London. His father was an Irish clergyman. Ernest spent most of his childhood living on the coast of Norfolk. He learned to play the violin and the piano. At first he was taught at home by a governess. When he was ten he went to school. In 1908, he went to Uppingham School where he spent five years. When he left school in 1913 he started to study piano and composition at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford.

War service


Moeran’s studies at the Royal College of Music were interrupted after 18 months because of the start of World War I. He joined the army as a despatch rider but he was soon badly injured in the head and could no longer fight in the army. After the war he did some music teaching, but then he started to study music again. His teacher this time was John Ireland who had been a pupil of Moeran’s earlier teacher Stanford.

Composing music


After these studies his music started to be performed a lot. His First Rhapsody for orchestra was performed several times, including in 1924 by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Hamilton Harty. He was asked to compose a symphony for the Hallé Orchestra, but he preferred to write shorter pieces, especially chamber music and piano music. In 1931 he wrote a String Trio which is one of his best works.

Moeran became interested in folk music. He liked to go to country pubs and listen to the people singing there. He collected about 150 folk songs in Norfolk and Suffolk and made many arrangements of them.

By the mid-1920s, Moeran had become close friends with Peter Warlock. They lived together and often went out drinking together. Moeran gradually became an alcoholic.

In 1945, after Warlock had died, Moeran married the cellist Peers Coetmore. The marriage was not very happy although it helped Moeran to compose some of his best pieces: the Cello Concerto and Cello Sonata.

Moeran was found drowned in the River Kenmare. At first people thought he had committed suicide but then it was found that he had had a heart attack and died before he fell into the water.

His music


Moeran’s music is influenced by folk song. His harmonies are often like those of Delius. He was also influenced by Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bax, John Ireland and Peter Warlock. For many years he concentrated on piano music, songs and chamber music, but in his later years he wrote larger works such as the Symphony in G minor (1934-7) and his Concertos for the Violin and the Cello.

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