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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor (1908-09)
Trio No.2 in E minor (1917)
Cello Sonata in G minor (1923)
The Holy Boy – carol (1913 arranged 1919)
Daniel Hope (violin)
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)
John McCabe (piano)
Recorded Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex, December 2003 (Violin Sonata and Trio), St John’s Smith Square, August 1979 (Cello Sonata), Henry Wood Hall, February 1987 (The Holy Boy)
SANCTUARY - ASV GLD 4009 [69.23]


Some old friends here – the Lloyd Webber/McCabe Cello Sonata and Holy Boy – and a couple of very welcome newcomers in the shape of the Violin Sonata and the 1917 Trio. They come decanted via Sanctuary in a sepia-tinted ASV single.

Violinist-of-the-moment Daniel Hope should take centre-stage here because his is the new blood in the trio. His Sonata performance is notable for the way he fearlessly coarsens his tone – he makes beautiful sounds as well, including one superb leap, but he’s clearly not interested in beauty of tone for its own sake. This is committed playing, musicianship in the service of the musical argument and musical drama. He opens rather quicker than Alan Loveday (remember the LP with Cassini?) but less confidently than Neaman/Parkin (who are in Lyrita limbo land at the moment). Principal CD rivals Mordkovitch and Brown (Chandos – part of an Ireland Chamber music box) tend to relax tempi a shade too much and have a big Chandos acoustic; she’s rather one-dimensional tonally as well. Yes, all right, I’ve not mentioned the Grinke/Ireland – Ireland’s powerful chording isn’t quite matched by anyone else on disc and Grinke’s command of the ebb and flow of the rhetoric (and it needs controlling) is masterly; he’s a minute quicker than Hope in the first movement. The super subtle lighting of tone by Grinke is a case in point, even if his vibrato is rather tense – and even if the Dutton transfer has lopped off too much treble. But Hope is fine, characterful, full of colour and imagination and very effective in the slow movement without courting easy sentiment. His finale is quite steady – elegant actually, with a splendid trill and nicely lyric playing; McCabe really shadows him here, producing some excellent tone and showing rhythmic acuity.

Comparisons are invidious but buyers will demand them; I really did like the Hope-McCabe-Lloyd Webber way with the Trio. They are more intense and slower than their Chandos rivals Mordkovitch, Brown and Georgian. They also slip rather better into its march rhythm – which Ireland once told Florence Hooton related to "the boys going over the top" - and there are one or two delicate touches of period portamento as well (from Lloyd Webber, always an acute judge of such matters and later on ecstatically from Hope). McCabe’s bell peals are exact and evocative and this trio of musicians look to have absorbed period intensifying devices without them ever appearing gestural or put on. Lloyd Webber’s section of the disc is, as I say, an old ASV standby and it’s a warm welcome back; he’s very much more romantic and phrases with that crucial bit more space than the Chandos pairing. His lyricism is exemplary and this is a really fine performance. (When, though, will someone bring back that Columbia 78 set of the Sonata played by the Spanish cellist Antoni Sala and Ireland or gain access to the Pini/Ireland BBC broadcast? While I’m at it let’s have a reissue of the Navarra/Parkin…….)

You won’t be disappointed with this release; fine performances of major English chamber music.

Jonathan Woolf


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