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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) (1946-7 arr. 1969) [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]



Hieratic, visceral and gritty; just some of the feelings generated by Ireland’s Legend in this assured performance by two notable exponents of the native music, Parkin and Boult. But the Children’s Dance placates the wildness of the Arthur Machen-derived phantoms and the sunburst romanticism fills the Sussex downland with heroic glory. Further distinction, beyond the architectural surety, is provided by the eloquent richness of the clarinet and oboe principals of the LPO. Notice too the dour tread back to the Leper’s hole at the end. It’s not necessary to know the narrative inspirations that course throughout the work – medievalism, faery – to appreciate its tight formal construction, its profusion of ideas, its contrastive balance and the resplendent opening out of its central panel.
 
The overture Satyricon fuses extroversion with lingering and languid romance at its core – it was written as a wedding present for Julian and Anna Herbage, and the former writes the Lyrita note about “his” work. There’s a passage written expressly for clarinettist Jack Thurston at its heart and for all the Elgarian bits and bobs it retains its jovial chatter to the last. Maybe syncopation and a mildly perky rhythmic friskiness is the nearest Ireland gets to Petronius’s legendary licentiousness.
 
Of this Parkin performance of the Concerto only good things can be said. He plays with patrician understanding and few were more qualified than he in the breadth of the concertante, chamber and solo works. His chording gives the music time to breathe – he’s always cognisant of Ireland’s oft-noted strictures in this area. He and Boult chart a knowing course between the necessities of rhythmic elasticity and the lure of romantic expression. The slow movement is warmly weighted and the melodic lines are artfully shaped, whilst the finale responds well to the way Parkin lashes into the Allegretto giocoso with such vehement chording.
 
The London Philharmonic Chorus sounds notably well drilled, under their exacting chorus master Frederic Jackson, in These Things Shall Be. This is a stirring opus, vibrant and proud, with more than a hint of Elgarian swagger to some of the melodic strands. Ireland’s use of lower brass is highly effective in adding depth to the texture and throughout his colouristic sense operates at a high level of engagement. John Carol Case proves a noble soloist. The original annotator Harold Rutland is stuck in bizarrely white-gloved mode when he describes the musical references in the score “to a well-known tune which, in the Thirties, represented for many people a vision of freedom and international accord.” What a strange way to describe the Internationale, the use of which use was provocative because the work was commissioned by the BBC at the time of the coronation of King George VI. Not wholly unsurprisingly These Things Shall Be was dedicated to Alan Bush. 
 
The Two Symphonic Studies are derived from Ireland’s film music for The Overlanders and they make for a bracing conclusion in Geoffrey Bush’s expert arrangements There’s plenty of purposeful writing here and the playing is similarly engaged – just hear the bite of the trumpets in the Toccata to appreciate that this was no run-through for the LPO and Boult.
 
The most recent of these performances was recorded over thirty-five years ago now but they sound vibrant still thanks to Lyrita’s technical brilliance. 
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
see also review by Rob Barnett


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