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Thread: John Ireland

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    Default John Ireland



    John Ireland was a conservative British composer whose music developed from a style that looked backward and forward toward Beethoven, Brahms, and other Classical and Romantic influences towards a post-Romantic manner, rich in lyricism, but having absorbed Impressionist and Neo-Classical elements. He is best known for his chamber music, solo piano compositions, and his songs. Yet, even in these genres, he was not consistent. In the orchestral realm he composed relatively few works, though several were of high quality, including the Piano Concerto in E flat and A London Overture. Ireland wrote not a single symphony or opera, and produced a single cantata, These Things Shall Be, a work which he came to dislike. In the end, Ireland must be assessed an important composer, who at his best could stand with his countrymen and contemporaries Vaughan Williams and Walton.

    John Ireland was born near Manchester. As a youth he exhibited musical talent early, despite his parents' involvement in the literary world. They had many friends who were writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson. This literary connection would surface later in many of Ireland's songs, many being settings of poems by Thomas Hardy, A.E. Housman, John Masefield, Christina Rosetti, and other English poets. At the age of fourteen he entered the Royal College of Music and shortly afterward suffered the loss of both parents. At the RCM he studied piano (with Frederick Cliffe), organ, and composition. In the latter realm, his teacher was the difficult but thorough Stanford, with whom he began study in 1897.

    Ireland wrote a fair number of compositions during his student years, but later destroyed most of them. One work of significance from this period that has survived, though, was the Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and String Quartet (1898). After Ireland ended his studies with Stanford in 1901, he worked as an organist and choir director. He served in that dual capacity at St. Luke's Church in Chelsea, beginning in 1904, holding the post until 1926.

    Ireland's Phantasie Trio (1906) and his Violin Sonata No. 1 (1908-1909) helped establish his reputation. The influence of Impressionism was taking hold of him in the early part of the new century, though largely affecting his piano works. Ireland composed his orchestral piece, The Forgotten Rite, in 1913, a work that reflected his interest in pagan mysticism. In the period 1915-1917 he produced his Violin Sonata No. 2, regarded by many as among the greatest chamber works to emerge from wartime England.

    Ireland took a faculty post in composition at the RCM in 1923. Over the years, his students there would include Britten, Searle, and Moeran. In 1927, the composer married, but only briefly, the ceremony subsequently being annulled and thus swiftly ending a most unpleasant episode in his personal life.

    Ireland left the RCM in 1939, but continued composing, turning out works like the brilliant Fantasy-Sonata for clarinet and piano in 1943. After he composed the film score for The Overlanders in the years 1946-1947, however, he wrote nothing more. It has been said that Ireland led a relatively uneventful life, landing no conducting post, traveling very little, never startling his audiences with a bold new composition, or exhibiting outrageous personal behavior. He was a self-critical, introspective man, haunted by memories of a sad childhood. He spent the latter part of his retirement in Rock Mill, Sussex, where he purchased a converted wind mill in 1953, where he died nine years later.

    [Article taken from All Music Guide]


    I have really fallen for this composer's remarkable lyricism. His Piano Concerto, "Legend (for piano and orchestra), "London Overture," "Downland Suite," "Mai-Dun," "Orchestral Poem," "Symphonic Studies," etc. All are beautiful works that deserve to be heard.

    Are any you familiar at all with Ireland's music?

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    I own some Ireland CD's. I admire the piano concerto and the piano works by Eric Parkin on the Chandos label. Also the cello sonata and piano trio are fine.

    Jim

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    The slow movement of his Concertino Pastorale for string orchestra is a masterpiece. I still get goosebumps after years of listening to this!
    FC

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    Senior Member TresPicos's Avatar
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    I've only heard the piano concerto and the Four preludes, and that was truly amazing music!

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    There's no question John Ireland was a fine composer, but what I find odd is how, like so many others during his time, went unnoticed. His music was so lyrical and beautiful. It had such a great feeling. The way he wrote melodies and the harmonies he used were truly inspiring.

    It's a shame that more people aren't aware of him music. All I have to say is thank goodness for conductors like Richard Hickox and Bryden Thomson. If it wasn't for them and Barbirolli I don't think Ireland's music would be be heard today.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    I came to know John Ireland through the chamber music. I’ve just discovered the Legend for piano and orchestra through the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series. What a beautiful piece of music. From the notes provided by Hyperion, the piece is a result of Ireland’s imaginings of Neolithic England.

    What strikes me about Ireland is that he found a way to be innovative while still employing relatively conventional harmonic techniques. The works seem to have a strong formal structure which follows the musical idea, rather than a traditional format. A great talent, who probably merits more recognition than he has received.
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Senior Member leonsm's Avatar
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    These Things Shall Be is a truly masterpiece.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTech82 View Post
    There's no question John Ireland was a fine composer, but what I find odd is how, like so many others during his time, went unnoticed. His music was so lyrical and beautiful. It had such a great feeling
    Indeed. This goes back, I think, to the word in the original post "conservative". There is little more unforgivable in certain minds than for music to be conservative. If it is, then it doesn't matter if it is lyrical and beautiful.

    This is a bit odd, in that if I listen to a piece of music which I haven't heard before and without knowing who composed it, I can't for the life of me understand why my attitude towards it would be influenced by when it was written. If it sounds baroque or classical or late romantic (or whatever) then that might be because it was written in the time when that style became a thing, or it might not - and why on earth would that matter.

    The attitude which, I think, underpins this is that music is somehow on a journey where it can progress or not (- even worse it can regress!). A composer who advances this progression is given credit, and one who does not is seen as conservative and (to some extent) not achieving anything worthwhile. Well personally I think this is nonsense: there is no such journey (just changing tastes) and there is no obligation on a composer or a listener to want to go any any such journey.

    If a composer today came up with Mendelssohn's 6th symphony (in terms of what their piece sounds like), then I would be just as happy as if an undiscovered Mendelssohn symphony was unearthed.
    Last edited by Eclectic Al; Feb-28-2021 at 08:52.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I'm lining up an Ireland listening session soon. I like his music from across the board but the later chamber works and the piano concerto are probably my favourites. When listening side by side the music of Ireland and his near-exact contemporary Frank Bridge struck me as being quite similar until Bridge broadened his horizons after WWI.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    This was my introduction to John Ireland about three decades ago. Still love this disc. His piano concerto is one of my favourites in the genre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Rock View Post


    This was my introduction to John Ireland about three decades ago. Still love this disc. His piano concerto is one of my favourites in the genre.
    I have that CD as well. Ill have to give it a listen. its been a looong time!

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    Senior Member Pat Fairlea's Avatar
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    Briefly, I love Ireland's elegant, engaging, fascinating music. Excellent, neglected.

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    As for me it is particularly Ireland's solo piano works that I like. One, The Island Spell, I performed as a teenager, but I somehow missed its connection with Jersey in the Channel Islands where my father had lived for some years as a child. His mother's family had owned a hotel in St. Helier. There are many piano pieces that evoke the sea, but this one has a particularly English Edwardian sensibility, Ravel-influenced to be sure. Two of my favorite sea composers are French: Vincent D'Indy who captures wave motion most exactly in certain orchestral works; and Jean-Guy Ropartz from Britanny. His piano Nocturne No. 3 is like a mysterious and unique evening walk along the seashore, a "must hear" IMO.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Mar-10-2021 at 00:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    As for me it is particularly Ireland's solo piano works that I like. One, The Island Spell, I performed as a teenager, but I somehow missed its connection with Jersey in the Channel Islands where my father had lived for some years as a child. His mother's family had owned a hotel in St. Helier. There are many piano pieces that evoke the sea, but this one has a particularly English Edwardian sensibility, Ravel-influenced to be sure. Two of my favorite sea composers are French: Vincent D'Indy who captures wave motion most exactly in certain orchestral works; and Jean-Guy Ropartz from Britanny. His piano Nocturne No. 3 is like a mysterious and unique evening walk along the seashore, a "must hear" IMO.
    Interesting post. I have some Ireland piano music i will have to revisit. thanks!

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    Senior Member Radames's Avatar
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    I've got some Ireland - 6 CDs. Chamber music, 2 versions of the Piano concerto, Terfel singing Vexilla Regis, some short pieces including the Overlanders suite. Love that Epic March. very catchy.
    Last edited by Radames; Mar-20-2021 at 02:27.

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