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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
CD1
Phantasie Trio in A minor (In one Movement) (1908) [13:14]
Trio No. 2 in E (In one Movement) (1917) [15:11]
Trio No. 3 in E (1938) [28:35]
Yfrah Neaman (violin); Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); Eric Parkin (piano)
CD2
Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and String Quartet (1898) [28:11]
Sonata for Cello and Piano (1924) [24:19]
Fantasy-Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (in one Movement) (1943) [14:00]
Emanuel Hurwitz, Ivor MacMahon (violins); Cecil Aronowitz, (viola); Terence Weil (cello); Gervase de Peyer (clarinet); Neill Sanders (horn)
André Navarra (cello); Eric Parkin (piano)
CD3
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor (1911) [30:44]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor (1917) [28:54]
Yfrah Neaman (violin); Eric Parkin (piano)
rec. July 1976, St. John’s Smith Square, London (CD1); May-October 1971 (CD2); June 1972, St. John’s Smith Square, London (CD3). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.2271 [3 CDs: 57:00 + 66:30 + 59:38]



I’ve long wanted to see this collection restored to the CD catalogue and now here it is. Or, rather, here they are because as Ireland collectors will know, probably by heart, these pieces were originally released on three Lyrita LPs – SRCS 59, 64 and 98.
 
One of the discs is devoted to the two violin sonatas played by Yfrah Neaman and Eric Parkin in 1972. The First is finely paced and has some superbly weighted chordal work from Parkin. Neaman plays the folkloric strains with delicate and refined simplicity. There are a few rather insignificant bowing slips from him in the first movement. Once again pacing is a key success area in the Second sonata. Parkin is once again on commanding form, giving full weight value as Ireland always insisted. Incidentally this kind of performance is always revealing. The sleeve note for this volume was written by Frederick Grinke, a great champion of Ireland’s music. He quotes Ireland to the effect that the composer was disappointed to be allocated only thirty minutes for it in a BBC broadcast of the Second Sonata. But when Ireland had the chance to record it with Sammons in 1929 he didn’t even breach twenty-eight minutes. Sammons and Ireland are over a minute quicker than the Neaman/Parkin duo in the first movement and one assumes Ireland could have overruled the violinist had he felt the speed excessive. These Lyritas are admirable performances; Neaman’s tone tended to thinness by this stage of his career especially in the upper register and there are certainly times when a greater range of tone colours would have been desirable – but all the architectural instincts are right.
 
Another disc is given over to the trios. The early Phantasie Trio fuses earnest Brahmsian influence and burgeoning folk lyricism to good if not highly personalised effect. You’ll find a greater and more sagacious weight in this performance than in the rival performance in a Chandos Ireland chamber music set. More of that in a while but it’s pertinent to point out that the Neaman-Lloyd Webber-Parkin traversal is a good two minutes slower than the Chandos performance and does sound that much more characteristic in its deliberation. In her sleeve-notes Thea King mentions the public concert when Ireland, hearing his Sextet for the first time in decades, quelled the increasingly excited ensemble with a perfectly audible command of “Steady!” So it is with this Trio – steady is the best course. The Second Trio is a splendid work, tightly argued and highly persuasively played. The allegro giusto section, the “boys going over the top” music, is especially successful. Rightly the trio doesn’t press too hard and allows characterisation to emerge at a natural and unforced pace. The Third Trio once again demonstrates an expressive gap between these performers and those on Chandos who are over three minutes quicker than the Lyrita team. Well though Mordkovich, Georgian and Brown play I prefer the more judicious centre of gravity of the older team. I also prefer the delicacy of the conversational exchanges between violin and cello in the Lyrita recording. Perhaps someone can dust down the Grinke Trio’s performances of both the Third and the Phantasie Trios on Decca 78s – they can rightly join Grinke and Ireland’s recording of the First Sonata, which is on Dutton coupled with the Sammons/Ireland recording of No.2.
 
Onto the final volume. The very early Sextet is a Brahms-influenced piece and Ireland was known to have ascribed a large part of the inspiration to Richard Mühlfeld’s playing of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. It shows Ireland at the age of nineteen to have possessed a strong imagination and a sure compositional grip. And if it’s over-ambitious in its span and scope then one can surely accommodate these faults in the light of so much enjoyable writing. The slow movement is the undoubted highlight and gorgeously played by a truly formidable line up. One would be wrong to squint at the name of André Navarra in the Cello Sonata and be entirely surprised at a “foreign” player. When Ireland recorded it in the 1920s he did so with Spanish cellist Antonio Sala. I’ve always supposed that this was because the first performer, Beatrice Harrison, was contracted to H.M.V. and Ireland to their rivals, Columbia. Be that as it may that Sala-Ireland performance has never been reissued and it’s high time it was. There were notable performers of the cello sonata, from Harrison to Thelma Reiss, Derek Simpson, Lloyd Webber and Pini amongst others – in fact a BBC broadcast of a Pini-Ireland performance exists. Navarra sits well amongst them. He’s at his most eloquent and his tone colours at their most expansive in the slow movement where he phrases with great dignity and persuasiveness. The Fantasy-sonata concludes this volume and the set as a whole. There’s a broadcast performance by the dedicatee, Frederick Thurston with Ireland, on Symposium and it tucks up just short of a minute quicker than this de Peyer-Parkin traversal but one should make little of that, beyond noting that Ireland once again wasn’t always as slow as he claimed to be, or to like. There’s some beautifully liquid clarinet playing from de Peyer and resolutely sensitive playing from Parkin, who is one of the animating spirits behind this whole collection.
 
As for competing collections CHAN9377/78 offers a similar but not replicatory collection. It’s only a two CD set. I admire the performances, which have stature and authority but prefer these Lyritas in almost every case for one reason or another.
 
The historically informed will want the two Ireland violin sonatas in which the composer is at the piano on Dutton, in performances noted above. The historically omnivorous will encourage someone – BBC Legends perhaps or maybe they consider Ireland too “parochial” – to release the considerable broadcast material that exists; the Pini-Ireland cello sonata, the solo piano music, talks, and songs. Maybe also the excellent wartime broadcast of the Second Violin sonata played by Eda Kersey and Kathleen Long.
 
Otherwise this is a potent and comprehensive collection, played by musicians of integrity and insight. It goes without saying that this is a cornerstone collection of British chamber music.
 
Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by Rob Barnett (Bargain of the Month) and John France
 
Lyrita catalogue



 


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