Friday, October 13, 2017

John Ireland - Orchestral Works (Richard Hickox)


Composer: John Ireland
  • (01-04) A Downland Suite
  • (05)      Orchestral Poem in A minor
  • (06-08) Concertino Pastorale
  • (09-10) Two Symphonic Studies

City of London Sinfonia
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 1994
Label: Chandos



Chandos have been doing John Ireland proud over the last few years, and Richard Hickox's new anthology is well up to the high standards of previous instalments in this valuable series. Truth to tell, there is little to choose between David Garforth's excellent 1983 version of the fresh-faced Downland Suite and Hickox's new account, though it is the latter who extracts the slightly greater expressive intensity from the glorious second movement ''Elegy''. However, in the Concertino pastorale Hickox and his admirable CLS strings are clearly preferable to George Hurst and a somewhat lacklustre Bournemouth Sinfonietta. This is another fine work, boasting a most eloquent opening ''Eclogue'' and tenderly poignant ''Threnody'', towards the end of which (5'09'') Ireland seems to allow himself a momentary recollection of the haunting opening phrase of his much earlier orchestral prelude, The Forgotten Rite.

In 1969 Ireland's pupil, Geoffrey Bush, arranged two sections of the score for the 1946 film The Overlanders which were not incorporated into the 1971 concert suite compiled by Sir Charles Mackerras. The resulting, finely wrought Two Symphonic Studies were recorded many years ago by Sir Adrian Boult for Lyrita (2/71 – nla), and Hickox proves just as sympathetic an interpreter, whereas the Orchestral Poem in A minor is here receiving its recorded debut. This is a youthful essay, completed in February 1904, some three years after Ireland's studies with Stanford at the Royal College of Music. It is, to be brutally honest, a worthy rather than especially inspiring effort, with nary a glimpse of the mature manner to come, save for some particularly beautiful string writing in the tranquil passage from 9'47'' onwards. Hickox makes out a decent enough case for it, yet I continue to find this composer's even earlier symphonic prelude, The Tritons (Chandos, 2/92), a far more memorable, red-blooded statement.

With rich, refined Chandos sound, however, this remains a most enjoyable collection overall.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ****


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.


Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor of choral, orchestral and operatic music. He served as Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia (1982-1990), Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1985-2008), Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (2000-2006), and was contracted as Opera Australia's music director at the time of his death. His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.


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