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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Tritons, symphonic prelude (c.1905) [10:29]
The Forgotten Rite, prelude (1913) [7:07]
Mai-Dun, symphonic rhapsody (1920-21) [11:23]
A London Overture (1936) [11:57]
Epic March (1942) [8:12]
Themes from Julius Caesar (arr. Geoffrey Bush) (Scherzo; Cortège) (1942) [6:45]
The Overlanders, suite (ed. Charles Mackerras) (Scorched Earth; Mary & Sailor; Open Country; The Brumbies; Night Stampede) (1946-47) [20:07]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult
rec. 1960s. ADD
recordings originally made in association with John Ireland Trust
LYRITA SRCD 240 [76:04]



 

The 1970s origins of many of Lyrita’s too long delayed CD revivals need hold no fears for any purchaser. The forty plus year old sound remains an object lesson taught by the analogue tradition to the digital era.

The recordings here first appeared on various LPs from what was then known as the Lyrita Recorded Edition. Richard Itter’s Lyrita label was, from the very outset, a steadfast champion for Ireland. Overall he was the composer who had the largest number of LPs in the Lyrita listing. There were mono LPs of the piano music from Alan Rowlands, Eric Parkin’s stereo series, the chamber music and the songs. The orchestral LPs from Lyrita were from the period 1966-1971 and all were Boult-conducted:-

SRCS32 Prelude: The Forgotten Rite; Mai Dun; Legend for piano and orchestra; Overture Satyricon

SRCS36 These Things Shall Be for baritone solo, chorus and orchestra; Piano Concerto in E flat

SRCS31 London Overture; Concertino Pastorale; Epic March; The Holy Boy; Minuet and Elegy (A Downland Suite)

SRCS45 Symphonic Prelude: Tritons; Two Symphonic Studies; Suite The Overlanders; Scherzo & Cortege (Julius Caesar)

The cover design for the CD booklet is taken from the Keith Hensby design for one of the original LPs and is based on an engraving of the Wren churches- clearly picking up the London reference.

Tritons is an early piece – which has curiosity value rather than anything else. The 40+ years since the recording session have lent the sound for this track a slight tubbiness but once the ear adjusts the brass sounds splendid with all the requisite grate and bite. Turning to a work of undoubted mastery, the effect in The Forgotten Rite is sumptuous - an object lesson in transparent scoring, sensitive interpretative choices and complementary recording technique. This is extraordinarily magical and fey music – gentle, dreamy and enigmatically beautiful. I noted at 6:10 a low key squeak.

The dream is blasted away by Mai-Dun. The title is taken from Thomas Hardy’s Wessex name for the earthworks known as Maiden Castle. It’s a dramatic piece which happily accommodates other influences including, in the aggressive French Horns at 1:20, Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. This is mixed with Delian complexity (3:40). The horns sing out over top of searching forte strings at 4:20 and there are Baxian touches aplenty with at 6:18 a typical brass and percussion dance. As a performance this has more bite than Bryden Thomson on the even more splendidly recorded Chandos collection. However it is Barbirolli who gives this the best outing compromised only by 1940s mono sound on Dutton.

Both London and Epic March have also been recorded by Richard Hickox on Chandos. Hickox is in both cases more expansive than Boult. Boult’s London has sappy rhythmic bite and a glorious wide-stage orchestral image. The Epic March has full breadth and the splendour of a truly Elgarian nobilmente. In fact Ireland must surely have had the older composer’s warlike echoes of the Pomp & Circumstance No. 4 in mind. Lyrita missed a trick by not ending the disc with this piece. The recording misses not a detail: ‘ting’ of the triangle, the zesty side drum in left channel and rolling brass in the right; not to mention that affirmative warble from the brass benches at 5:41.

Rather like Bax, his flirtations with commissioned incidental music were invariably painful. He did not enjoy the BBC commission but on the evidence of Geoffrey Bush’s editorial work we can enjoy a stuttering Holstian scherzo full of jerky activity and a cortege of brooding epic melancholy. The cavernously sonorous clarity at 3:10 for brass and side drum is memorable.

Ireland sole foray into film music was for The Overlanders. Here the mediation between film and concert suite was done by Charles Mackerras – very appropriate given the Australian locale for the film. Scorched Earth has a Rawsthorne-like lyrical acidity – recalling the younger composer’s music for The Cruel Sea. The Intermezzo has a steady-as-she-goes swing in an open natural acoustic. In Brumbies Boult drives the music forward with muscular brusqueness. Note the fast flutter-tonguing from the trumpet. Night stampede has those magnificently burred and rolling horns and there is a majestic blast with which to end the suite.

The Lyrita reissue programme for the orchestral Boult-conducted Ireland will be completed in February and April 2007 with SRCD.241 and SRCD.242. The first will have Legend; Satyricon; Piano Concerto; These Things Shall Be and Two symphonic studies. The second is a mixed anthology: Ireland: Concertino Pastorale; The Holy Boy; Minuet & Elegy (Downland Suite) and Bridge: Rosemary; Suite for Strings; Sally in our Alley; Cherry Ripe; Lament; Sir Roger de Coverley.

The liner-notes for this issue are by three pillars of the Ireland quarter Julian Herbage, Harold Rutland and Geoffrey Bush.

A classic John Ireland collection – magically done. Not the essential Ireland apart from Forgotten Rite - for that you must go to SRCD.241 – but full of vitality and imagination..

Rob Barnett

 


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