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Ireland: String Quartets / Maggini Quartet

Release Date: 06/20/2006 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557777   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Ireland
Performer:  David AngelLaurence JacksonMartin OutramMichal Kaznowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Maggini String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The English composer John Ireland (1879–1962) is here represented by his only two string quartets. Both are student works (written before he was 20) and are fluent, idiomatic, and immensely likeable. The healthy and engaging first movement of No. 1 seems to betray influences of Grieg, and the work as a whole—whether in the scurrying second movement (not termed Scherzo), eloquent slow movement (rather Brahmsian), and the lively, country dance finale—gives much pleasure.

This compact work, playing here for 22 minutes, was followed by the more enterprising C-Minor Quartet; both pieces gained Ireland a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London. He had been there since just before his 14th birthday, nominally studying the
Read more piano and organ, but he was most ambitious to compose. (Andrew Burn’s booklet note is very informative.)

String Quartet No. 2 (here timed at 32 minutes) begins, maybe, with a reference to Dvo?ák; certainly he comes strongly to mind. The generally outgoing nature of No. 1 gives way to something more introspective and lyrically expansive—really quite lovely, in fact. The slow movement, marked Andante, is also termed Nocturne, and the use of mutes brings a dark and compelling hue to this deeply felt creation. The earthy third movement is this time termed Scherzo, and a purposeful one it is, too, the Trio being a flowing and flowering contrast. The finale (in terms of minutes and seconds) is the longest movement (just) of the four, a theme and variations of imposing achievement, both rhapsodic and directional, often resolute, and the final bars are lively and impassioned.

Two works, then, that make for gratifying listening, and there’s no doubting young Ireland’s impeccable craftsmanship and quality of invention. One can certainly hear his influences, but one can also savor his burgeoning talent. The performances from the Maggini Quartet are simply magnificent: what devotion these musicians lavish on this music. Furthermore, the recording is quite superb in its intimacy, blend, and balance—the listener feels like the “fifth” member.

The CD layout places The Holy Boy between the two quartets. Ireland’s only other work for string quartet—and this is by default, and the piece’s popularity, for this is the composer’s arrangement of a piano piece composed on Christmas Day, 1913. It is a haunting miniature of yearning but not syrupy beauty, and most often heard (in my experience) in Ireland’s version for string orchestra (of which Sir Adrian Boult made a wonderful recording for Lyrita). On string quartet, from the Maggini, The Holy Boy speaks confidentially and raptly across the decades.

FANFARE: Colin Anderson
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 1 by John Ireland
Performer:  David Angel (Violin), Laurence Jackson (Violin), Martin Outram (Viola),
Michal Kaznowski (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Maggini String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 22 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (01/21/2004 - 01/23/2004) 
Preludes (4) for Piano: no 3, The Holy Boy by John Ireland
Performer:  Laurence Jackson (Violin), Michal Kaznowski (Cello), Martin Outram (Viola),
David Angel (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Maggini String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (01/21/2004 - 01/23/2004) 
Quartet for Strings no 2 by John Ireland
Performer:  Michal Kaznowski (Cello), David Angel (Violin), Laurence Jackson (Violin),
Martin Outram (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Maggini String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, England 
Length: 31 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (01/21/2004 - 01/23/2004) 

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