You might not immediately think so but to all intents and purposes
this is in competition with Lyrita's
3CD set of Ireland’s
chamber music on SRCD2271 (see review
The two sets are not identically coupled. The Lyrita is a double
width box and 3 CD affair while the Chandos is a single width
twofer. The Lyrita has the very early Sextet written under the
candid shadow of Stanford. It's not essential Ireland but pleasingly
Brahmsian. The Lyrita reflects the layout of the original SRCS
LPs in the 1970s and is lavish with CD space.
The Chandos was first issued in the mid-1990s as a double. It
lacks the Sextet but adds the jewel-brief Holy Boy
one of its innumerable transcriptions - in company with the two
violin sonatas, the sonatas for cello and for clarinet and the
The timings are close between Lyrita and Chandos although the
trios are all shorter by a couple of minutes on Chandos.
Ireland's English passion is a reserved thing. He lacks the unbuttoned
sentiment of an Elgar or a Bax. He is subtle and suggestive rather
than overt. The Lyrita recordings identify fully with this aspect
where by contrast Mordkovitch and Bown flood the music with greater
emotional temperature - a more Latinate approach. This works
to grand and sometimes Tchaikovskian effect in the First Violin
; one of the most engaging performances I have ever
heard of this work. The Sonata was premiered by the composer
with Marjorie Hayward.
The swirling eddies and undertow of the Second
also work well in direct rhetoric and in the
touching half-lights of the middle movement. The druidic monumental
writing of the finale is well done as is the carefree race to
the finishing line. The premiere was given by Sammons and Murdoch
in the uniform of the Grenadier Guards.
The earliest recording
here - the Fantasy-Sonata
- is from what was originally
a mixed British clarinet and piano recital. The sound is typical
of the company - a real enjoyably rich recreation of the sound
of player and instrument - more Decca-close than EMI-spatial.
It was written for Frederick Thurston who can be heard playing
it on a Symposium
The Cello Sonata
is given a completely convincing
and very romantically taut reading by Georgian and Bown
who is such a strength throughout these performances. Has the
slow movement at 4:30 ever been done with such slow brooding
passion? The premiere fell to Beatrice Harrison with Evlyn Howard-Jones
in April 1924. Ireland's gift for romance falling poignantly
away at the end of climaxes can be sampled in the compact Phantasie
which also has a ‘dumky’ magical wildness
about it (3:27).
Things are more subdued in the Second Trio
another work, alongside the Second Sonata, from close to the
murderous apex of the Great War - how long would it continue?
It does however end in a blaze of what seems youthfully searing
optimism comparable with works of the same era from Herbert Howells.
The big Trio No. 3
is in four movements and is dedicated
to Walton. It is based on a withdrawn work we can now hear in
some measure in another recording not yet reviewed here - Ireland's
Clarinet Trio. It is another dreamily yet active lyrical work
written one side of the Second World War. His last chamber piece,
the Fantasy Sonata
written in 1943 bereft of his beloved
Channel Isles dates from two years before the end of the war.
The penultimate movement of Trio No. 3 seemed a shade diffuse
in this performance - something which I did not feel with the ad
trio formed for the Lyrita chamber project.
The Chandos sound reflects a more recent and fully digital product.
The Lyrita tapes are analogue from the period 1967-74; the Chandos
1984-93. The Chandos offers the essential chamber Ireland on
two tightly packed discs in voluptuous sound and performances
and with Mordkovitch's fruity tone as against Yfrah Neaman's
The Chandos is more of an international product with Lewis Foreman's
just-so notes in English, French and German. The whole set will
presumably enjoy superior worldwide distribution.