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John IRELAND(1879-1962) Legend for piano and orchestra (1933) [12:43]
Overture Satyricon (1946) [8:43]
Piano Concerto (1930) [24:45] These Things Shall Be (1937) [19:44]
Two symphonic studies: Fugue; Toccata (arr. Geoffrey Bush) (1946-7 arr.
Eric Parkin (piano)
John Carol Case (baritone)
London Philharmonic Choir/Frederic Jackson
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. 1966, 1968, 1971. ADD LYRITASRCD.241 [77:13]
Hieratic, visceral and gritty; just some of the
feelings generated by Ireland’s Legend in this assured
performance by two notable exponents of the native music,
Parkin and Boult. But the Children’s Dance placates the wildness
of the Arthur Machen-derived phantoms and the sunburst romanticism
fills the Sussex downland with heroic glory. Further distinction,
beyond the architectural surety, is provided by the eloquent
richness of the clarinet and oboe principals of the LPO.
Notice too the dour tread back to the Leper’s hole at the
end. It’s not necessary to know the narrative inspirations
that course throughout the work – medievalism, faery – to
appreciate its tight formal construction, its profusion of
ideas, its contrastive balance and the resplendent opening
out of its central panel.
The overture Satyricon fuses
extroversion with lingering and languid romance at its core – it
was written as a wedding present for Julian and Anna Herbage,
and the former writes the Lyrita note about “his” work. There’s
a passage written expressly for clarinettist Jack Thurston
at its heart and for all the Elgarian bits and bobs it retains
its jovial chatter to the last. Maybe syncopation and a mildly
perky rhythmic friskiness is the nearest Ireland gets to
Petronius’s legendary licentiousness.
Of this Parkin performance
of the Concerto only good things can be said. He plays with
patrician understanding and few were more qualified than
he in the breadth of the concertante, chamber and solo works.
His chording gives the music time to breathe – he’s always
cognisant of Ireland’s oft-noted strictures in this area.
He and Boult chart a knowing course between the necessities
of rhythmic elasticity and the lure of romantic expression.
The slow movement is warmly weighted and the melodic lines
are artfully shaped, whilst the finale responds well to the
way Parkin lashes into the Allegretto giocoso with
such vehement chording.
The London Philharmonic
Chorus sounds notably well drilled, under their exacting
chorus master Frederic Jackson, in These Things Shall
Be. This is a stirring opus, vibrant and proud, with
more than a hint of Elgarian swagger to some of the melodic
strands. Ireland’s use of lower brass is highly effective
in adding depth to the texture and throughout his colouristic
sense operates at a high level of engagement. John Carol
Case proves a noble soloist. The original annotator Harold
Rutland is stuck in bizarrely white-gloved mode when he describes
the musical references in the score “to a well-known tune
which, in the Thirties, represented for many people a vision
of freedom and international accord.” What a strange way
to describe the Internationale, the use of which use
was provocative because the work was commissioned by the
BBC at the time of the coronation of King George VI. Not
wholly unsurprisingly These Things Shall Be was dedicated
to Alan Bush.
The Two Symphonic
Studies are derived from Ireland’s film music for The
Overlanders and they make for a bracing conclusion in
Geoffrey Bush’s expert arrangements There’s plenty of purposeful
writing here and the playing is similarly engaged – just
hear the bite of the trumpets in the Toccata to appreciate
that this was no run-through for the LPO and Boult.
The most recent
of these performances was recorded over thirty-five years
ago now but they sound vibrant still thanks to Lyrita’s technical
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