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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Legend for piano and orchestra (1933) [12:43]
Overture Satyricon (1946) [8:43]
Piano Concerto (1930) [24:45]
These Things Shall Be (1937) [19:44]
Two symphonic studies: Fugue; Toccata (arr. Geoffrey Bush) () [11:13]
Eric Parkin (piano)
John Carol Case (baritone)
London Philharmonic Choir/Frederic Jackson
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. 1966, 1968, 1971. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.241 [77:13]

This is the essential John Ireland containing three works that stand among the composer’s finest. Satyricon and the Studies are pleasing makeweights.

Along with the items on SRCD 240 (Tritons, The Forgotten Rite, Mai-Dun, A London Overture; Epic March; Julius Caesar; The Overlanders suite) issued in January 2007 all these derive from recordings first issued on black disc in the late 1960s by Lyrita Recorded Edition. They were:-

SRCS32 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

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

Julian Herbage wrote in the liner note that Legend forms a natural trilogy with The Forgotten Rite and Mai-Dun. Yes and No. Certainly it is taken up with the prehistory of Southern England but it has little to do with the more overtly romantic-melodramatics of Mai-Dun with its Tchaikovskian references largely uncloaked. Legend has more in common with The Forgotten Rite. Both are taken up with the hidden ancient England which can be glimpsed in fugitive moments amid coppices, at twilight and on lonely hillsides. The Lyrita technical team produced a lucid, poetic balance not wanting in muscularity. The brass and the piano are given a deeply satisfying place in the sound picture. This loosely linked tripartite form can be characterised as dramatic (Mai-Dun), poetic-elusive (The Forgotten Rite) and hieratic-invocative (Legend). The sturdy gait and sustained tension of this piece suggests some enigmatic druidic ceremony. For an even more sensuous take on this work don’t ignore Bryden Thomson’s Chandos version. For Mai-Dun and The Forgotten Rite the most poetic version is that of John Barbirolli on Dutton but then you have to contend with historic mono sound. Legend’s way with the piano and the orchestra can be compared with the considerably more loquacious Bax Symphonic Variations – a much earlier work or the more concentrated Northern Ballad No. 2. Satyricon is yet more outgoing and clearly took lessons in vigour from the Walton overtures. It also has some of that peculiarly lush Ireland romance drifting into Bax concert overture territory at times. However Walton suggests itself again in the first section of the impressive Two Symphonic Studies - two fugitives from the music for the film The Overlanders not included in the Mackerras-arranged suite. This is the Walton of the Hamlet funeral march. Both sections are supremely well recorded showing how the analogue process could attain the highest standards and do so with shattering fidelity.

The Piano Concerto is given a most patrician and yielding performance by Eric Parkin who much later went on to record almost all the Ireland solo piano music in stereo versions to replace the mono LPs from Alan Rowlands issued by Lyrita in the early 1960s. The sound is gorgeously and assertively transparent and flatters this work which remains memorable for its bleached romanticism and Petrushkan playfulness.

These Things Shall Be also benefits from a recording that lays bare the detail without being sterile. It’s a fine work with a desperately unfashionable text by the poet John Addington Symonds. This sort of idealism now draws a smirk or a sneer but its utopian ambitions remain admirable. And when sung as here with burnished fervour the words and music register strongly – try the wonderful unanimity of the words A Loftier Race at tr.7, 4:03 onwards. The recording does however tend to congeal and thicken during the louder and more blazingly impassioned choral moments. Later still the choir ascend to the heights for an ecstatic 'Trascending all we gaze upon' that may well have affected the choral writing in Patrick Hadley’s The Tree So High on the words ‘And Daffodils …' . The whole of These Things Shall Be has a moving quality that lifts it above the Piano Concerto. The version that completely catches the wildly aspirational convictions of this text is the now venerable and damaged Barbirolli recording on Dutton. Ireland courts the Elgarian and then turns from it in the hymnal Nation with nation … With Boult we have John Carol Case whose incipient vibrato is noticeable but under control. Only when he came to record Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring for Lyrita some fifteen years later did this bring him to grief.

What of the more immediate future for Ireland and Lyrita? The cupboard is not quite bare. April 2007 issues include SRCD.242 Ireland: Concertino Pastorale; The Holy Boy; Minuet & Elegy (Downland Suite) Bridge: Rosemary; Suite for Strings; Sally in our Alley; Cherry Ripe; Lament; Sir Roger de Coverley LPO/Boult.

Fine and even essential John Ireland in performances as freshly conceived and played as they were when first issued almost four decades ago.

Rob Barnett

The Lyrita Catalogue


SRCD.240 Boult conducts Ireland – vol. 1
SRCD.220 Boult conducts Parry
SRCD.222 Boult conducts Holst
SRCD.231 Boult conducts Bax
These Things Shall Be comparative reviews



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