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Ina BOYLE (1889-1967)
Overture for orchestra (1933-34) [8:01]
Violin Concerto (1932-33 rev. 1935) [16:39]
Symphony No. 1 Glencree (In the Wicklow Hills) (1924-27) [21:29]
Wildgeese: Sketch for small orchestra (1942) [3:47]
Psalm for cello and orchestra (1927 rev. 1928) [9:17]
A Sea Poem: Theme, variations and finale for orchestra (1919) [15:50]
Colin Clout (A Pastoral after Spenser’s "The Shepheardes Calender") (1921) [8:50]
Benjamin Baker (violin)
Nadège Rochat (cello)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Ronald Corp
rec. Watford Colosseum, 2017

Ina Boyle was born and continued to live in Co. Wicklow in the Republic of Ireland. She studied via correspondence lessons with Charles Wood – whose compositions appear on disc – and CH Kitson, who also taught George Lloyd, Robert Still and Michael Tippett. For fourteen years she travelled to see Vaughan Williams for composition lessons.

A secure grounding ensured a strong degree of competence and her imaginative approach to her source material ensures that the works collated in this disc, which date from 1919 to 1942, engage the ear at all times. The Overture for Orchestra is expertly laid out, offering opportunities to orchestral principals and in its exploration of folkloric hues – kinship here with Harty and Moeran – she shows acute awareness of impulses in British music of the time. She also has the courage to end things quietly and not to strive for effect.

The Violin Concerto is very brief at 16 minutes. She showed it to VW who suggested it run ‘through’, and without a break, though Dutton helpfully tracks it in its three clearly demarcated sections. Unavoidably, perhaps, The Lark Ascending haunts a number of passages. The concerto bears a dedication to Boyle’s mother, who had just died, and this perhaps accounts for its ethereal nature, its untethered and nostalgic vison, which is all the clearer when one reads that its finale is based on a setting of a poem Boyle had composed as a gift for her mother a few years previously. It’s a lovely work and is played with judicious innocence by Benjamin Baker, whose stylish playing impressed me here just as much as it did in a recording of Reynaldo Hahn recently.

The Symphony No.1 ‘Glencree’ (In the Wicklow Hills) was an earlier work, dating to the years 1924-27. It opens mist-drenched, evocative and tactile in its nature painting. Its VW influences are accompanied by a hymnal-like theme, the writing for strings embellished by eloquent lines for the winds, notably the oboe’s curlew-like lonely calls. She writes a central scherzo, full of echoing voicings, borne on a terse wind; plenty of horn calls and chattering writing in this evocative night ride in the hills. The finale depicts Lough Bray and the rippling harp and play of high and low winds are all well stratified. The oboe reminisces over an earlier clarinet melody and the music draws to a reflective, calming close.

Wildgeese, a sketch for small orchestra is Sibelian to a fault and features a lyrical cello solo. Psalm dates to 1927-28 and is cast for cello solo and orchestra. It’s a sumptuously romantic ballad rather more than a Psalm, to these ears at least, and is played with rapt, even yearning commitment by Nadège Rochat; again, Boyle reserves special emphasis for the oboe writing. A Sea Poem (1919), the earliest piece here, is for theme, six variations and finale. It reveals a more academic cast of mind, inevitably, than any of the other works. But there are clues as to the imagination that was soon to be unleashed in the perceptive use of harp, the imaginative whipping up of stormy material – prefiguring her nature writing in the Symphony – and the way she anchors low brass.

The final track is a most attractive piece called Colin Clout which was dedicated to Boyle’s sister; its style and structure were both clarified and strengthened after consultation with VW. It’s playable on the SACD layer but not via the ordinary CD.

Production standards and documentation here are alike first class and it’s a pleasure to welcome so interesting a disc as this.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett


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