Friday, May 12, 2017

Frederick Delius; John Ireland - Piano Concertos (Piers Lane)


Composer: Frederick Delius; John Ireland
  1. Delius - Piano Concerto in C minor (original 1904 version): I. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Delius - Piano Concerto in C minor (original 1904 version): II. Largo
  3. Delius - Piano Concerto in C minor (original 1904 version): III. Maestoso con moto moderato
  4. Ireland - Legend: Lento - Poco più mosso - Broad
  5. Ireland - Piano Concerto in E flat major: I. In tempo moderato
  6. Ireland - Piano Concerto in E flat major: II. Lento espressivo - Allegro - Cadenza - attacca:
  7. Ireland - Piano Concerto in E flat major: III. Allegretto giocoso

Piers Lane, piano
Ulster Orchestra
David Lloyd-Jones, conductor

Date: 2005
Label: Hyperion



Delectable, haunting, powerful Ireland – and Delius’s first thoughts

Having already given us a scintillating version of Delius’s 1907 Piano Concerto with Vernon Handley and the RLPO (CfP, 11/95R), Piers Lane now turns his attention to the composer’s original thoughts. The piece actually began life in 1897 as a single-movement fantasy for piano and orchestra, which Delius subsequently recast as a concerto in three separate movements. First heard in Berlin in October 1904, that’s the version performed here.

The most striking difference surrounds the finale, which Delius discarded for the 1907 revision. It launches with a grittily defiant C minor theme in 5/4 time – and, at 7’56”, you’ll encounter a magical idea that Delius salvaged for his 1916 Violin Concerto. The piano writing throughout is less flamboyant than in the revision yet still offers ample opportunity for winning display. It’s all dashingly dispatched here, and devotees of this composer should certainly investigate.

How odd that, with the honourable exception of Eric Parkin’s Chandos account, recordings of John Ireland’s delectable Piano Concerto never seem to survive long in the catalogue. (We really could do with reissues of Eileen Joyce’s pioneering 1942 account – last available on Dutton, 5/93 – not to mention Parkin’s Lyrita recording with Boult, 10/68, as well as the memorably perceptive Stott/Handley alliance on Conifer Classics, 1/90.)

This Hyperion newcomer possesses many virtues. Piers Lane responds with nimble sensitivity, David Lloyd-Jones secures a tidy response from the Ulster Orchestra and the performance as a whole has a sparkle, eagerness and snap that are most refreshing. Some (myself included) may wish for a rather greater sense of anguished undertow in the slow movement, a reaction that extends to the clean-limbed account of the 1933 Legend. This is one of Ireland’s most haunting and powerful creations but I’m not sure that all of its other-worldly caprice and slumbering disquiet is conveyed here; Parkin’s digital remake with Thomson and the LPO, though somewhat cavernously recorded, is both more poetic and questing. Just how much longer, by the way, shall we have to wait for a CD reissue of Parkin’s famous Lyrita version with Boult (9/66)?

Enough grumbling: the programme is an immensely appealing one and there’s so much that is praiseworthy about this cleanly engineered issue that it deserves a cordial reception.

-- Andrew AchenbachGramophone

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Frederick Delius (29 January 1862 – 10 June 1934) was an English composer who forged a unique version of the Impressionist musical language of the early twentieth century. The lyricism in Delius's early compositions reflected the music he had heard in America and the influences of European composers such as Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner. As his skills matured, he developed a style uniquely his own, characterised by his individual orchestration and his uses of chromatic harmony. After WWII, Delius' fame began to spread, due in large part to the efforts of Thomas Beecham, who championed Delius' music.


John Ireland (13 August 1879 – 12 June 1962) was an English composer and teacher of classical music. He studied piano with Frederic Cliffe and composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. He was strongly influenced by Debussy and Ravel as well as by the earlier works of Stravinsky and Bartók. From these influences, he developed his own brand of "English Impressionism", related more closely to French and Russian models than to the folk-song style then prevailing in English music.  Ireland favoured small forms and wrote neither symphonies nor operas, although his Piano Concerto is considered among his best works.


Piers Lane (born 8 January 1958) is an Australian classical pianist. He graduated with a Medal of Excellence from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, where his teacher was Nancy Weir. His performance career has taken him to more than 40 countries. His concerto repertoire exceeds 75 works. Lane has an extensive discography on the Hyperion label and has also recorded for EMI, Decca, BMG, Lyrita and Unicorn-Kanchana. Lane is a well-known voice on BBC Radio 3, having written and presented more than 100 programs, including a 54-part series called The Piano.


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