Saturday, 13 September 2008

John Ireland: Piano Works Volume 3 on Naxos

Piano Sonata (1918-1920) Soliloquy (1922) Preludes: The Undertone; Obsession; The Holy Boy; Fire of Spring (1913-15) The Almond Trees (1913) On a Birthday Morning (1922) Green Ways: The Cherry Tree; Cypress; The Palm and May (1937) Two Pieces: For Remembrance; Amberley Wild Brooks (1921) Equinox (1922) Spring will not Wait (1926-27) Ballade of London Nights (c.1930)
John Lenehan (piano)

I recently reviewed the third volume of the Naxos Edition of the collected piano music of John Ireland. After noting my disappointment that there were a few omissions from the cycle – the Three Dances, an Indian Summer and the Sea Idyll- I conceded that perhaps I was nitpicking – as this CD is an excellent addition to the growing conspectus of John Ireland’s Piano Music which includes Parkin (two editions) Rowlands and lately Mark Bebbington.

The most important composition on this CD is the Piano Sonata. This demanding work was written between 1918 and 1920 and is one of the great Sonatas in the 20th century piano repertoire. I enjoyed Lenehan’s playing of this complex work. He manages to explore and even perhaps get behind some of the deepest mysteries in this work. The light and shade in this Sonata is well defined by the pianist and the interest never flags for a moment. I think the CD is worth purchasing for this performance alone.

My touchstone for any recording of Ireland’s piano music is Spring Will Not Wait which is actually an epilogue to the Housman song-cycle We’ll to the Woods No More. The piece is meant to summarise and comment upon the foregoing songs. I felt that the Lenehan version did not work for me. It seems a little fast in places and some of the detail manages to get lost: somehow my interest in the music seems to disappear mid-piece – and is not really recovered.

However, I concluded my review by suggesting that “I can certainly recommend this CD. I accept that John Lenehan would not be my first choice. The bottom line is that any recording of the piano music by a professional and accomplished pianist is interesting and deserves out attention. John Lenehan provides an important addition to the repertoire which is largely dominated by Eric Parkin.

Please see the full review on MusicWeb International

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