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