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John IRELAND (1879-1962) Piano Music Vol. II John Lenehan (piano) NAXOS 8.553889 [70:43]



The programme comprises:

Merry Andrew
The Towing Path
Two Pieces: April
Decorations: The Island Spell
The Scarlet Ceremonies
Leaves from a Child's Sketchbook: By the Mere
In the Meadows
The Hunt's Up
The Darkened Valley
Three Pastels: A Grecian Lad
The Boy Bishop
Puck's Birthday
Two Pieces: February's Child

I have to say that I gave Mr Lenehan's first volume of Ireland's piano music a rather chilly review and I regret to say my reaction to his second Ireland collection is not much warmer.

I remember talking to Eric Parkin who has recorded Ireland's piano music and he told me that Ireland was most emphatic about not wanting his music to be hurried; he was very sensitive to the chordal movement and wanted every note to be heard (Ireland writes lots of notes in his music). Ireland's music is romantic and impressonistic; in fact he was very much influenced by the music of Debussy and Ravel (and Gershwin).

Lenehan tends to hurry too much to the detriment of the music. Listening to Eric Parkin's readings one is immediately impressed with how much more colour, rhythmic variety and potency, character and depth that Parkin brings to these charming little works. I compared the first three numbers on Mr Lenehan's programme with their Chandos equivalents (more warmly and more resonantly recorded). Parkin's Merry Andrew, (3:01) as opposed to Lenehan's (2:49) shows more pathos beneath the frenetic exuberance in fact Parkin reveals far more character facets. In The Towing Path, Parkin (3:49) has that extra delicacy and fragility and he suggests a nostalgia and a sad Delian transience as well as drawing just an idyllic portrait of Thameside village (Lenehan 3:40). Lenehan rushes through the Rhapsody (7:31) missing Parkin's finesse and fine line contrasts (8:17).

Lest I be thought too harsh, Lenehan is overall quite sympathetic and I warmed to some interpretations notably his evocative The Island Spell and Moon-Glade from Decorations and two of the Three Pastels: A Grecian Lad and The Boy Bishop. Against his trend he dawdles over By the Mere and the Moderato first movement of the Sonatina.

The Darkened Valley is erroneously grouped with Leaves from a Child's Sketchbook in the booklet.

I suggest that newcomers to John Ireland might sample this bargain album and then move up to the more satisfying Chandos recordings. Eric Parkin has a touch that is pure magic as afar as John Ireland is concerned.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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