The 1970s origins of
many of Lyrita’s too long delayed CD
revivals need hold no fears for any
purchaser. The forty plus year old sound
remains an object lesson taught by the
analogue tradition to the digital era.
The recordings here
first appeared on various LPs from what
was then known as the Lyrita Recorded
Edition. Richard Itter’s Lyrita label
was, from the very outset, a steadfast
champion for Ireland. Overall he was
the composer who had the largest number
of LPs in the Lyrita listing. There
were mono LPs of the piano music from
Alan Rowlands, Eric Parkin’s stereo
series, the chamber music and the songs.
The orchestral LPs from Lyrita were
from the period 1966-1971 and all were
SRCS32 Prelude: The
Forgotten Rite; Mai Dun;
Legend for piano and orchestra;
SRCS36 These Things
Shall Be for baritone solo, chorus
and orchestra; Piano Concerto in E flat
SRCS31 London Overture;
Concertino Pastorale; Epic
March; The Holy Boy; Minuet
and Elegy (A Downland Suite)
SRCS45 Symphonic Prelude:
Tritons; Two Symphonic Studies;
Suite The Overlanders; Scherzo
& Cortege (Julius Caesar)
The cover design for
the CD booklet is taken from the Keith
Hensby design for one of the original
LPs and is based on an engraving of
the Wren churches- clearly picking up
the London reference.
Tritons is an
early piece – which has curiosity value
rather than anything else. The 40+ years
since the recording session have lent
the sound for this track a slight tubbiness
but once the ear adjusts the brass sounds
splendid with all the requisite grate
and bite. Turning to a work of undoubted
mastery, the effect in The Forgotten
Rite is sumptuous - an object lesson
in transparent scoring, sensitive interpretative
choices and complementary recording
technique. This is extraordinarily magical
and fey music – gentle, dreamy and enigmatically
beautiful. I noted at 6:10 a low key
The dream is blasted
away by Mai-Dun. The title is
taken from Thomas Hardy’s Wessex name
for the earthworks known as Maiden Castle.
It’s a dramatic piece which happily
accommodates other influences including,
in the aggressive French Horns at 1:20,
Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony.
This is mixed with Delian complexity
(3:40). The horns sing out over top
of searching forte strings at 4:20 and
there are Baxian touches aplenty with
at 6:18 a typical brass and percussion
dance. As a performance this has more
bite than Bryden Thomson on the even
more splendidly recorded Chandos collection.
However it is Barbirolli who gives this
the best outing compromised only by
1940s mono sound on Dutton.
Both London and
Epic March have also been recorded
by Richard Hickox on Chandos.
Hickox is in both cases more expansive
than Boult. Boult’s London has
sappy rhythmic bite and a glorious wide-stage
orchestral image. The Epic March
has full breadth and the splendour
of a truly Elgarian nobilmente. In fact
Ireland must surely have had the older
composer’s warlike echoes of the Pomp
& Circumstance No. 4 in mind. Lyrita
missed a trick by not ending the disc
with this piece. The recording misses
not a detail: ‘ting’ of the triangle,
the zesty side drum in left channel
and rolling brass in the right; not
to mention that affirmative warble from
the brass benches at 5:41.
Rather like Bax, his
flirtations with commissioned incidental
music were invariably painful. He did
not enjoy the BBC commission but on
the evidence of Geoffrey Bush’s editorial
work we can enjoy a stuttering Holstian
scherzo full of jerky activity and a
cortege of brooding epic melancholy.
The cavernously sonorous clarity at
3:10 for brass and side drum is memorable.
Ireland sole foray
into film music was for The Overlanders.
Here the mediation between film and
concert suite was done by Charles Mackerras
– very appropriate given the Australian
locale for the film. Scorched Earth
has a Rawsthorne-like lyrical acidity
– recalling the younger composer’s music
for The Cruel Sea. The Intermezzo has
a steady-as-she-goes swing in an open
natural acoustic. In Brumbies Boult
drives the music forward with muscular
brusqueness. Note the fast flutter-tonguing
from the trumpet. Night stampede has
those magnificently burred and rolling
horns and there is a majestic blast
with which to end the suite.
The Lyrita reissue
programme for the orchestral Boult-conducted
Ireland will be completed in February
and April 2007 with SRCD.241 and SRCD.242.
The first will have Legend; Satyricon;
Piano Concerto; These Things Shall
Be and Two symphonic studies.
The second is a mixed anthology: Ireland:
Concertino Pastorale; The
Holy Boy; Minuet & Elegy (Downland
Suite) and Bridge: Rosemary;
Suite for Strings; Sally in
our Alley; Cherry Ripe; Lament;
Sir Roger de Coverley.
The liner-notes for
this issue are by three pillars of the
Ireland quarter Julian Herbage, Harold
Rutland and Geoffrey Bush.
A classic John Ireland
collection – magically done. Not the
essential Ireland apart from Forgotten
Rite - for that you must go to SRCD.241
– but full of vitality and imagination..