Schubert sonatas

Newest Releases

Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

Free classical music concerts by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

British composers

  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo
  • Stellar debut<br>piano recital
  • Clarinet transcriptions Jonathan Cohler
  • Jonathan Cohler & Claremont Trio
  • French clarinet masterpieces
  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo

Shostakovich Symphony 10 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem

Dvorak Opera Premiere

Grieg, Mendelssohn sonatas




Would you like a hyperlinked weekly summary of the CDs we have reviewed?

Click for further details

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Prima voce
Red Priest
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Phantasie Trio in A minor (1906/7) [11:26]
Piano Trio No. 2 in E major (1917) [12:54]
Piano Trio No. 3 in E major (1938) [24:39]
Berceuse for violin and piano (1902) [3:08]
Cavatina for violin and piano (1904) [3:01]
Bagatelle for violin and piano (1911) [3:03]
The Holy Boy for violin and piano (1913 arr. 1919) [3:03]
Gould Piano Trio (Lucy Gould (violin); Alice Neary (cello); Benjamin Frith (piano))
rec. 13-15 June 2008, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England. DDD
NAXOS 8.570507 [60:34]
Experience Classicsonline

The resurgence of interest in John Irelandís music is welcome and personally very pleasing. I can almost imagine the wry and knowing smile of satisfaction on the face of Irelandís great teacher Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Although relationships were often fraught and his methods harsh the influential Stanford loved to see his pupils progressing. Ireland certainly came a long way from his early days at the Royal College of Music (1897-1901) when in 1898 his great master said to the then very young student, ďAll water and Brahms me bhoy and more water than Brahms Ö Study some DvořŠk for a bit and bring me something that isnít like Brahms.Ē (ĎCharles Villiers Stanfordí by Paul Rodmell, Ashgate, 2002). The product of this remark was Irelandís composition of the precocious and charming Sextet for clarinet, horn and string quartet.

This new Naxos issue features the three piano trios. The Gould Piano Trio is an outstanding ensemble that I have seen perform live several times. In recital I have been impressed by the Gouldís consistently high level of performance and have generally found their standard of music-making exceptional. 

In 1907 Ireland gained considerable attention with his Phantasie Trio in A minor, a tuneful and appealing single movement score dedicated to Stanford. The work was an entry for the Ď1907 Cobbett Competition for Phantasy Piano Trioí one of the series (1905-19) of prestigious events instituted by Walter Willson Cobbett to promote British chamber music. Like all entries the score had to follow Cobbettís ĎPhantasyí (often spelt Phantasie) convention of being designed in one continuous movement, the parts to be of equal importance and not to last more than twelve minutes. According to B. Hodges, Irelandís Phantasie Trio in A minor came third - the booklet notes claim it was second prize - to the winning entry Frank Bridgeís Phantasy in C minor and the runner-up James Friskinís Phantasy in E minor. (ĎW.W. Cobbettí doctoral dissertation by Betsi Hodges, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA. 2008). Irelandís score was premiered to significant acclaim by the London Trio at Londonís Aeolian Hall in January 1909.

The A minor Phantasie Trio opens with a section marked In tempo moderato. It has a densely textured Brahmsian quality that conveys a feeling of warm and carefree abandon. I enjoyed the Meno mosso, quasi andantino with its abundance of romantic sentimentality. The section marked Temp I is sad and yearning but is interspersed with brisker dance-like episodes. In the Vivace e giocoso the dark clouds dissolve to reveal brilliant sunlight culminating in a vivacissimo conclusion.

Completed in 1917 during his employment as organist/choirmaster at St. Lukeís Church, Chelsea it is difficult not to view Irelandís Piano Trio No. 2 in E major as his personal reaction to the horrors of the Great War. It seems that the single movement score was a reworking of an earlier D major Trio for clarinet, cello and piano. The premiŤre of the score was given at the Wigmore Hall, London in June 1917 played by violinist Albert Sammons, cellist Charles Warwick-Evans with Ireland at the piano.

In the Piano Trio No. 2 the opening section Poco lento conveys a heartbreaking yearning and passion. To an extent the section marked Allegro giusto (quasi doppio movimento) is suggestive of the marching tread of the infantry contrasting with the beautiful yearning quality of the Andante. The section marked Allegro agitato offers troubled and disconcerting writing that precedes the Finale, a Largamente conveying mixed moods and emotions.

The Piano Trio No. 3 in E major completed in 1938 bears a dedication to William Walton. This is a sign of Irelandís high regard for Walton as he rarely dedicated his scores. Here Ireland uses material from an earlier clarinet trio that had laid in a drawer for well over two decades. Cast in four movements the Trio No. 3 received its first radio broadcast in April 1938 in a performance by Antonio Brosa (violin), Antoni Sala (cello) and Ireland as pianist.

The score opens with an Allegro moderato movement that immediately gave me a sense of speed and dashing almost darting around. Ireland combines this with gentle passages of passion. Rhythmic and jerky, the Scherzo conveys a curious mood of rather bewildering intentions. It feels clear that the Andante cantabile movement is music of love. It heaves with beauty and passion with just a slight undercurrent of tension. I enjoyed the briskly played Con moto, Finale - a carefree outpouring of joy and excitement.

Scored for violin and piano, the Berceuse (1902), Cavatina (1904) and Bagatelle (1911) are melodic if rather inconsequential pieces for the drawing room. Although I have never quite understood its popularity The Holy Boy is the Ireland score one is most likely to encounter. Composed on Christmas Day in 1913 as a piano piece this light, dance-like piece appears in various guises. Ireland made this revision for violin and piano around 1919. 

The competition for recordings of Irelandís chamber music is spearheaded by the Chandos set (see review) that fits eight chamber scores on two discs and is the most obvious choice. This is expertly performed by Lydia Mordkovitch (violin), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Ian Brown (piano) and Karine Georgian (cello). It features the two violin sonatas, all three works for piano trio, the Fantasy Sonata for clarinet and piano, the Cello Sonata and The Holy Boy for cello and piano. 

On reissued Lyrita I strongly admire the performances on the triple set containing eight chamber scores. I have become strongly attached to and have known these performances since their release in the 1970s on Lyrita LPs: SRCS 59, 64 and 98. They have become probably my personal favourite collection of Irelandís chamber music. The list of performers includes Yfrah Neaman (violin), Julian Lloyd Webber (cello) and Eric Parkin (piano). Compared to the rival version they take the three trios at substantially slower speeds, with the Phantasie Trio taking longer than the designed twelve minutes. This is not too much of a problem as it seems that Ireland would himself often take his scores slower than many of his interpreters. The disc also includes the early Sextet for clarinet, horn and string quartet on Lyrita (see review) as well as the Cello Sonata, Fantasy Sonata and the two Violin Sonatas.

The Holywell Ensemble recorded the three Piano Trios together with the Sextet in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in 1997. There is some fine playing here and the recorded sound is of a decent standard on the ASV label CD DCA 1016.

Another disc of Ireland chamber music worth investigating is on the Sanctuary label. It is part of their ASV Gold series but it contains only the Piano Trio No. 2. This is a collection on a single disc that also contains the Violin Sonata No.1, Cello Sonata and The Holy Boy. Daniel Hope (violin), Julian Lloyd Webber (cello) and John McCabe (piano) are the performers in these splendid recordings. They were made at various times between 1987-2003 on Sanctuary (see review).

I have gained considerable pleasure from the reissued historic mono recordings from 1938 of the Phantasie Trio in A minor played by Frederick Grinke (violin), Florence Hooton (cello) and Kenneth Taylor (piano). This recording has been digitally re-mastered from the original 78 rpm Decca records and stands up remarkably well for its seventy year age. The coupling contains historic recordings from 1930 and 1945 of Irelandís two Violin Sonatas with Ireland at the piano. It is on Dutton Historic Epoch CDLX 7103 coupled with The Holy Boy.

Returning to the present Naxos disc: this assured playing makes a strong and impressively communicative case for Irelandís music. Whatís more it is very naturally recorded with a splendid balance. Bruce Phillips provides top-drawer booklet notes. I do wish Naxos would cease using stock photographs as their front cover artwork - it certainly cannot help sales. This was a pleasure to review and will enhance any record collection.

Michael Cookson

see also Review by John France




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.