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Ireland - Piano Works Volume 3
John Ireland’s piano music, some of the most appealing British piano music of the twentieth century, reflects the composer’s many interests: his love of literature, his interest in paganism and Celtic mysticism, as well as the bitter-sweet regret of the passing of love. irelanThis recording includes Ireland’s Piano Sonata, whose third movement is associated with Chanctonbury Ring on the Sussex South Downs, and the four Preludes, the third of which, The Holy Boy, written on Christmas Day 1913, is one of Ireland’s most popular and touching melodies.
“Comparative listening to the meaty Sonata that Ireland wrote between 1918 and 1920 (the one work common to all three releases) finds both Rowlands and Bebbington allowing themselves rather greater breathing space than the more urgently propulsive Lenehan (who whips up quite a gale in the first movement's development).
Each is a mightily convincing proponent, though Rowlands's interpretation carries particular authority: during the late 1950s he studied intensively with Ireland (the booklet contains a most engaging and fascinating personal reminiscence) and it was Rowlands whom the composer recommended to Richard Itter of Lyrita for its complete recorded edition.
With no editing facilities available, single takes were a necessity in sessions spanning January 1959 to March 1963 which took place in the music room of Itter's Buckinghamshire home.
Captured in perfectly acceptable mono sound, Rowlands's memorably intimate performances betoken a very special empathy for this repertoire.
Indeed, his playing throughout these three well filled CDs evinces a selfless dedication, recreative wonder and abundant poetic instinct.
As for the two new collections, Lenehan effortlessly maintains the favourable impression left by the first two instalments in his series (reviewed above). With his pellucid, exquisitely variegated tonal palette, he makes a gorgeous thing of The Almond Trees, plumbs real depths in Spring will not wait and the central “Cypress” from Green Ways, and masterminds superbly involving accounts of the gale-tossed Equinox and mercurial Ballade of London Nights. What's more, he has been accorded crystal-clear yet nicely atmospheric engineering.
For first-timers, however, Bebbington's programme provides a pretty much ideal introduction, containing two of Ireland's most popular and durable achievements, namely Decorations and London Pieces – both given with such winning aplomb, scrupulous care and heartwarming sense of new discovery that it's hard not to fall in love with them all over again (the vernally fresh 'Chelsea Reach' positively beams with joy).
Elsewhere, Bebbington displays wonderful control in the leaner-textured and economically argued Sonatina, just as he is acutely responsive to the fearful undertow of the Ballade (close cousin to the riveting Legend for piano and orchestra). Somm's sound is clean and true.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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John Ireland Piano Music
“Captured in perfectly acceptable mono sound, Rowland's memorably intimate performances betoken a very special empathy for this repertoire.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
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John Ireland - The Piano Music
"How can the critics begin to understand my music if they have never read Machen?" This was a question heard to fall on more than one occasion from John Ireland’s lips. Ireland came of a literary family, and literature and literary people played a natural part in the formation of his personality. Most influential of all were the works of Arthur Machen the Welsh writer, who was to Ireland almost what Yeats was to Bax. Ireland had dreamt in fire - after his first encounter with Machen it was only a matter of time before he worked in fire also. In the wake of The House of Souls and The Hill of Dreams a smouldering coal flared gloriously into flame. For Machen loved all memoried things and places, things with a past behind them - and the more remote the past the greater he felt able to partake of them. He hailed from a forgotten country in the West, a land of dark and ancient woods and streams and deep sunken lanes, the ancient Welsh kingdom of Gwent …
“Eric Parkin's… is completely inside Ireland's idiom, well understanding the darker emotional complexities and yearnings that may underlie a seemingly casual phrase or carefree melodic line.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2008 *****
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