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John IRELAND (1879-1962) Ireland plays Ireland   Violin Sonata No. 1 in D-minor Frederick Grinke (violin); John Ireland (piano) Violin Sonata No.2 in A-minor Albert Sammons (violin); John Ireland (piano) Phantasie Trio in A-minor Frederick Grinke (violin); Florence Hooton (cello); Kenneth Taylor (piano) Holy Boy Florence Hooton (cello); Lawrence Pratt (piano)   EPOCH /DUTTON CDLX 7103 [72:36]
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John IRELAND (1879-1962)

Ireland plays Ireland

Violin Sonata No. 1 in D-minor

Frederick Grinke (violin); John Ireland (piano)

(recorded by DECCA - November 1945)

Violin Sonata No.2 in A-minor

Albert Sammons (violin); John Ireland (piano)

(recorded by Columbia in October 1930 but unpublished)

Phantasie Trio in A-minor

Frederick Grinke (violin); Florence Hooton (cello); Kenneth Taylor (piano)

(recorded by DECCA in 1938)

Holy Boy

Florence Hooton (cello); Lawrence Pratt (piano)

(recorded by DECCA in November 1938)

  How John Ireland liked his music to be played.

The whole subject of composer and interpreter has always been vexed. I remember a BBC programme, many years ago when recorded interpretations by Furtwängler and Weingartner of Beethoven symphonies were contrasted to illustrate a strict classical and a more relaxed Romantic approach. Now, the Beethoven symphonies are great, strong, solid edifices that can quite easily bear such divergent approaches - its like viewing the Forth Bridge magnificent in full sunlight or more softly silhouetted against moonlit mists - both, in their way, are valid. I raise this point because other music cannot, in my opinion, bear such divergence of approach without loosing its inherent form and character. The form of John Ireland's music is more like the delicate (yet strong in its own way) construction of a spiders web which can easily be destroyed with rough handling by insensitive hands. (The spider's web is, I think, an apposite metaphor because Ireland's musical forms were complex and he did write a lot of notes into his compositions)

This album is a testament to the way John Ireland viewed his own music and the way he advocated that it should be played. I always remember Eric Parkin telling me that Ireland never liked his music to be hurried and that he insisted that every note that he wrote be heard. Alan Sanders in his booklet notes for this album confirms this insistence when he writes:-

"As a performer, Ireland often favoured tempos which were slower than those of his interpreters. His friend Harold Rutland felt that this trait was due to the fact that he was more an organist than a pianist. But Ireland knew exactly what he wanted and he had very definite ideas as to how his music should be played. Rutland remembered listening to radio performances of his works with Ireland and how angry the composer would become when he heard unidiomatic interpretations. "It was murder!", he would exclaim. Eric Parkin has recalled how demanding he was in the interpretation of his piano works when he studied them with him. He would often emphasise the importance of rhythm in his music, and strong rhythms and accents are always to be found in his own performances."

A review of the music on the album

A reviewer always feels a sense of trepidation when asked to review an album where the composer is his own interpreter. Its like trying to 'review' the Taj Mahal or St Peter's in Rome. You feel that the recording in your CD tray is establishing a benchmark by which others must be judged.

Violin Sonata No. 1 in D-minor - played by Frederick Grinke and John Ireland

Frederick Grinke was Canadian (born in Winnipeg in 1911). His teachers included Adolf Busch and Carl Flesch. He taught at the Royal Academy of music for a number of years and was a staunch supporter and exponent of British music. Vaughan Williams wrote his only violin sonata, in 1954, for him, and he also inspired works by Lennox Berkeley, Gordon Jacob and Kenneth Leighton. Grinke studied the two violin sonatas with Ireland as well as the Phantasie Trio and remembered how the composer made him particularly aware of the music's individual harmonic content.

Ireland's First Violin Sonata ,completed in 1909, but not premiered until 1913, was entered into the third Cobbett Music Competition. It came first out of 134 entries and was well received. The Sonata was revised in 1917 and again in 1944. It is notable for its melodic invention, varied textures and wide-spanning lines. All three movements have passages of quiet introspection and often these are heart-rendingly poignant. More virile material balances this material in the outer movements.

Ireland was not impressed by the strictures of recording - particularly by the tyranny imposed by the very limited capacity of the old 78rpm records. His first recording of the Cello Sonata suffers awkwardly from the stops and starts of recording on wax. However, the First Violin Sonata seems to have been an altogether more serene experience for there is a sense of joyous and relaxed spontaneity. The fact that Grinke and Ireland had played the work together on several occasions no doubt contributed to their ease of mind. Surprisingly, one notices immediately that the tempo of the first movement is considerably faster than the modern Chandos recording featuring Lydia Mordkovitch and Ian Brown (11:54 as opposed to 13:15). Ireland favours virile, strongly-accented rhythms here and in the sprightly Rondo finale. Grinke impresses with his beautifully shaped performance and ravishing tone. The ensemble between the two artists is very finely balanced especially in the lovely Romance.

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor played by Albert Sammons and John Ireland

Albert Sammons was largely self-taught, but became one of the most admired violinists of his day. He was the dedicatee of Delius's Violin Concerto and his performances and recordings of that work and the Elgar Concerto and Violin Sonata were famous. He was also an admired exponent of concertos by other British composers, including Moeran, Dyson and Walton.

This recording of Ireland's Violin Sonata No. 2 is especially valuable because it has never been released before - possibly the economic depression of the early 1930s was the prime factor? Whatever, this is a fascinating document for the added reason that Sammons had, with pianist William Murdoch, given the first performance, in uniform, in 1917. John Ireland remembered, "…both of them young and boyish-looking, radiating youth and energy. For me it was an electrifying occasion. Little of my music had been publicly heard, and I felt my fate as a composer was to be decided… It was probably the first and only occasion when a British composer was lifted from relative obscurity in a single night by a work cast in a chamber music medium." The reason was that the music seemed to be the expression the public wanted of their wartime experiences. Indeed, in the affecting middle section of the slow movement, as this most eloquent interpretation testifies, one might think of the sweet sentimental song of the violin as expressing the thoughts of those at home in contrast to the sterner piano part suggesting the weary marching feet of the fighting forces.

Phantasie Trio in A minor - played by Frederick Grinke (violin); Florence Hooton (cello) and Kenneth Taylor (piano)

This for me is one of the most sublimely beautiful works in the entire chamber music repertoire.

Although John Ireland is replaced here by Kenneth Taylor one might infer that with the presence of Frederick Grinke (again that sublime tone and phrasing) that John Ireland himself probably knew and approved of this recording? The performance is very good; Florence Hooton's tone sounds occasionally wiry but I am splitting hairs. There is plenty of judicious rubato and those gorgeous melodies are played with great intensity.

The Holy Boy - played by Florence Hooton and Lawrence Pratt (piano).

Ireland's famous 3-minute-or-so miniature The Holy Boy, given in this incarnation for piano and cello, completes the programme

Again thanks and congratulations are due to the painstaking labours of Michael J. Dutton in producing such clear and clean transfers. The sound, considering the age of the originals is excellent.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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