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CONCERT REVIEW

JOHN IRELAND Piano Sonata

By Marion M Scott

Christian Science Monitor, Saturday July 24 1920

NEW PIANO SONATA BY JOHN IRELAND

LONDON, England - The production of a large new work by John Ireland could not fail to arouse attention, since he is now regarded as one of the most individual and progressive members of the young British school. The actual event, so far as London was concerned, took place on June 12, Lamond producing Ireland's sonata for piano at his recital at Wigmore Hall, though it is understood that he had played it in Bournemouth a week earlier.

It was placed centrally in Lamond's program, preceded by Beethoven's 32 variations in C minor, and followed by a long group of miscellaneous solos. There is no need to dwell specifically upon these. Lamond's Beethoven playing was as powerful and intellectual as usual; his Chopin over-robust and devoid of idealism; his Liszt of an amazing virtuosity.

This new sonata is undoubtedly a big work, and like most of Ireland's things, has evidently been written with deliberation and fixity of purpose, companioning his thoughts for many months, since the score bears the date "Chelsea: October 1918 to January 1920."

The sonata is cast in three movements: (a) allegro moderato, (2) non troppo-lento, (3) con moto moderato, and is described as being in E minor. Analysts, however, who may wish to trace the old, obvious key enters and relationships in this work, will find they have a difficult task. Not that the sonata is devoid of key; far from it. Ireland has his centers of harmonic interest, he balances his progressions with as complete a personal awareness of his intentions as an architect brings to a building, and his work is never loose-flung nor carelessly finished. But the sonata is difficult to follow in virtue of the extremely close chain of reasoning which governs its structure, and the marked individualism of its style.

The first movement of the sonata contains much that is striking, and the form (a refinement upon the classical sonata form) is as interesting to a composer as the brilliant passages are effective for a pianist; yet in some ways it is the least satisfactory movement of the three, for in it Ireland is closest to what he has done before and there are moments which recall his "Ragamuffin" or the violin sonata in A minor. But in the second and third movements he seems to have got clear of his earlier works and to be speaking directly from his present experience, revealing John Ireland as a man who has progressed.

The second movement is in B flat major, this unexpected juxtaposition of keys having been already foreshadowed by the first movement. Melodic beauty, harmonic color, breadth of design, together with much introspection, are the characteristics which appear upon a first hearing. Probably the movement does not give up all its secrets at once.

The finale (E major) begins with spacious dignity, and, gradually gathering momentum as it proceeds, seems impelled by some terrific energy to a tremendous end. It forms a fine close to a powerful work.

Lamond played it with immense conviction, a strong man interpreting the work of a strong man, his flowing tone, great striding passages and thunderous chords suiting the titanic mood of much of the music. But there were also delicate half-shades and fantasies which he missed, and therefore the performance did not stand as perfectly balanced.

The Sonata, however, made an instant impression, and both Lamond and Ireland were called to the platform at the close to bow their acknowledgments.

by Marion M Scott

 

This article appears here with the kind permission of Pamela Blevins

 

 


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