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John Ireland - 70th Birthday Concert / Joyce, Llewellyn, Boult, London PO

Release Date: 09/29/2009 
Label:  Lpo   Catalog #: 41   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John Ireland
Performer:  Eileen JoyceRedvers Llewelyn
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraLuton Choral Society
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

IRELAND A London Overture . Piano Concerto in E?. 1 The Forgotten Rite. These things shall be 2 ,3 Adrian Boult, cond; Eileen Joyce (pn); 1 Redvers Llewellyn (bar); 2 Luton Choral Society; 3 London PO LPO 41, mono (68:53) Read more Live: London 9/10/1949

John Ireland turned 70 in 1949, and a portion of a Proms concert given by the London Philharmonic on September 10th was set aside to celebrate that fact. Boult conducted, appropriately enough, both given his championing of the composer, and his acceptance of the LPO’s chief conductorship the following year after leaving the BBC Symphony. Eileen Joyce, who had recorded Ireland’s Piano Concerto in 1942, was on hand to perform it again. The venue was Royal Albert Hall, 20 years before acoustical fiberglass dampeners referred to by many concertgoers as “mushrooms” or “flying saucers” were introduced to cut down the building’s notorious echo. (I’ve been told during the years before the changes were introduced, it was a popular joke that the RAH was the only place a British composer could be assured of hearing his own work twice.)

The sound is not cavernous on this release, however, which captures the Ireland material. (The rest included Kodály, Verdi, and Borodin.) Presumably those who were present felt differently. More problematic is evidence of what may have been gate filtering applied at some point in the past to the source, leading to congestion where the natural hall sound vanishes as the music quickly drops off. There are also a very few instances of poorly excised tics, creating “bubbles” in the surface of the music. But the energy is palpable, and the sense of event unmistakable.

A London Overture is a deserved crowd pleaser. Boult recorded it commercially with the LPO in the 1960s, a version I first encountered on Musical Heritage Society 1498, though available now in much improved sound on Lyrita 240. This live version is both a bit less concentrated than the other one—tending to lose some of its impetus in the longer, slower introspective section—and gifted with more audacious swagger, especially in the famous “’dilly, Piccadilly!” section. The Forgotten Rite is given a decent reading, long on atmosphere, though it is received with a level of coughing that may reflect the audience’s lack of interest. (I may also be unfairly projecting my own feelings about the tone poem’s quality in comparison to, say, those of Bax, but the coughs really do pick up in quantity and volume as the work progresses.) Joyce, in the Piano Concerto, sounds as though she were literally recorded through an acoustic horn, while the orchestra was using microphones: the treble of her instrument is missing, and the bass greatly reduced. That noted, this is a fine reading of the best piano concerto ever written by a British composer, expertly balancing athletic playfulness and relaxed warmth. (Her solo early in the slow movement is an especially fine example of nuance, sound issues notwithstanding.) Boult works well with his soloist, and the strings are as notable for their distinctive contribution here as the brass were earlier in the overture. The richly expressive cantata, These things shall be , suffers a bit from Redvers Llewellyn’s obtrusively old-fashioned diction, but the quality of his baritone and that of the Luton Choral Society make up for much. I still prefer John Carol Case in the version recorded in the 1960s (Lyrita 241), but despite a number of technical limitations and several instrumental flubs, it remains a powerful performance.

This is obviously not a first choice if you want to expose someone to Ireland’s music. The pair of Lyrita releases I’ve mentioned above, plus Lyrita 242 (Boult in Bridge and more Ireland) are the best places to start. But these items are still enjoyable, with a tangible feeling of life that isn’t killed by the archival sound or the occasionally imprecise attack.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

London Overture by John Ireland
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; England 
Length: 11 Minutes 52 Secs. 
The Forgotten Rite by John Ireland
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; England 
Length: 9 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano in E flat major by John Ireland
Performer:  Eileen Joyce (Piano)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; England 
These things shall be by John Ireland
Performer:  Redvers Llewelyn (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Luton Choral Society
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936-1937; England 

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