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Decca Phase 4
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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Mai-Dun (1921) [11:04]
The Forgotten Rite (1913) [7:09]
Satyricon Overture (1946) [8:45]
The Overlanders Suite (1946) arr. Charles Mackerras [20:08]
A London March (1936) [12:14]
Epic March (1942) [8:18]
Hallé Orchestra/John Wilson
rec. March 2007, BBC Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester
HALLÉ CD HLL 7523 [67:41]
Excellently recorded and played, this is a useful, Boult-like
introduction to some of Ireland’s orchestral works. There is
variety; the Machenesque world of Rite juxtaposed with
WW2 era film music, an ENSA-originated flag-aver jostling with
a saucy Satyricon. I say Boult-like not because the performances
particularly reminded me of him, but because the disc does.
SRCD240 sports all these pieces bar Satyricon.
Let’s take that item first. Boult did record Satyricon for
coupled with the Legend for piano, the Piano Concerto,
These things shall be, and Two symphonic studies (arranged
by Alan Bush). John Wilson takes it at a sprightly tempo with
an unashamedly romantic B section. It’s essentially the same
tempo as Boult’s but the Lyrita engineering – over 40 years
old now – is surprisingly more effective at certain important
moments. The greater immediacy of the Lyrita probably suits
the brashness of the writing better – note the whipcrack in
Boult’s recording. Boult too has more character, a greater sense
of incident, and - crucially - more sculpted dynamics. Wilson’s
reading is more on one dynamic level – it’s flatter and less
exciting and effective.
I’ve concentrated on this particular example not because the
Wilson/Hallé traversal is poor but because Boult’s is, I think,
demonstrably superior. And it’s example that will, by extension,
recur throughout. Mai-Dun is sumptuously recorded in
terms of its romantic effusion but at a slightly slower tempo,
with the same orchestra as Wilson’s gets his 1949 forces to
evoke the trudge and movement rather more pointedly. Wilson
seems just a touch rhythmically foursquare after JB and the
latter’s changes of orchestral colour, despite the recording’s
date, are bewitching. Wilson’s approach is perhaps rather more
The Forgotten Rite is assuredly well played and ‘placed’.
Pacing is good, and so too is the strangeness and romanticism
of the writing. The Overlanders Suite goes very well.
There are refined textures and first class playing from the
orchestra’s principals – I’d single out leader Lyn Fletcher
(I assume), and the principal clarinet, bassoon, oboe and flute
in the Romance section in particular. A London Overture
is ripe and tangy with, once more, fine individual and corporate
playing though again there’s a greater sense of character in
Barbirolli’s recording – he was always proud of his Bloomsbury
heritage. The Epic March is punchy and Elgarian and makes
for an enjoyable envoi.
Throughout however Wilson has to defer to the established masters
of the genre – Boult and Barbirolli – in interpretative matters.
For a generous introduction to the composer’s orchestral music
however it has some good things going for it.
see also review by Michael
Cookson and John
France (February Recording of
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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