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Boydell: In Memoriam Mahatma Gandhi, Etc / Colman Pearce

Release Date: 08/05/1997 
Label:  Marco Polo   Catalog #: 223887   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Brian Boydell
Performer:  Maighread McCrann
Conductor:  Colman Pearce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Dublin-born Brian Boydell (b. 1917) was one of the first composers in his land to cast off the narrow features of national Irish aesthetics and adopt certain influences of international modern music. But he did not in any way become an avant-garde composer, a serialist, or anything like it. In fact, though he was "the naughty boy of modern Irish music" in the 1940s and 1950s, as he said in a recently published interview, he admits now to being rather "old-fashioned" and to feeling "lost with very contemporary music."

For the 80th birthday last year of this self-proclaimed "old fogey," Marco Polo has issued this retrospective CD of four of Boydell's orchestral works. If you know his
Read more orchestral music at all, it is probably the Megalithic Ritual Dances, once available on a Decca LP. But some lucky readers may have the New Irish LP of Boydell's grand, picturesque Symphonic Inscapes of 1968. But if you know neither work, then this CD is your way to get to know Boydell.

ln Memoriam Mahatma Gandhi was written and premiered within six months of the great man's death in January of 1948. The music builds slowly to a climax in the Funeral March middle section before subsiding to everlasting calm. The work's deeply felt, tragic character becomes something else to remember about the piece. (This is one of the surprisingly few pieces written in Gandhi's memory. In fact, the only other such work I know of is Lukas Foss's 1948 orchestral Recordare.)

The Violin Concerto of 1953-54 is quite beautiful. Rhapsodic but strongly argued, the concerto is reminiscent of Bloch; the Lento middle movement has a particularly passionate lyricism that aches over some unidentified loss or regret. The Rondo finale has rhythmic and harmonic elements of late Bartók that challenge the soloist's precision and intonation, a challenge that Ms. McCrann conquers dead on.

Masai Mara (1988) was named for a game park in Kenya where the composer felt that he could nearly coexist in harmony with the dawn of humanity. Frankly programmatic, Masai Mara opens by depicting a limitless, wide-open plain populated by mysterious bird sounds re-created on a tenor recorder. Eventually a threatening mood ensues, and the bird sounds become cries, though, as Boydell says, "they should not be interpreted too literally." This powerfully angular, driving middle section achieves the contrast that sets up the final, prayerlike conclusion.

The Megalithic Ritual Dances (1956) were inspired by the circle of huge stones found in various places in Ireland—a vestige of some long-ago religious practices occurring before the arrival of St. Patrick in the fifth century A.D. It was the stones' "dark hints of human sacrifice" that attracted Boydell. He will admit to pictorial elements in the music to the point of acknowledging that the slow dances could "obviously" be connected to the possible offering up of virgins. So these are not Malcolm Arnold-like, high-energy folk dances; based on mock-folk melodies, the music is heavier and more ceremonial, without rambunctiousness but with all the variety of orchestration and rhythm that makes such cycles rich listening. The work's Final Dance is driven on by cascading timpani, to end this fine CD quite emphatically.

One certainly has the lion's share of Boydell's major symphonic music right here. This is a wonderful installment in Marco Polo's ongoing Irish Composer Series—which I hope eventually gets to Ian Wilson, who has one of the most acute ears for instrumental color that I've ever heard. The all-Irish performances are first-rate; the sound is ever so slightly dampened.

-- Stephen Ellis, FANFARE [1/1998]
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Works on This Recording

In Memoriam Mahatma Gandhi by Brian Boydell
Conductor:  Colman Pearce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Ireland 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 
Concerto for Violin by Brian Boydell
Performer:  Maighread McCrann (Violin)
Conductor:  Colman Pearce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; Ireland 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 
Masai Mara, Op. 87 by Brian Boydell
Conductor:  Colman Pearce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Ireland 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 
Megalithic Ritual Dances by Brian Boydell
Conductor:  Colman Pearce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; Ireland 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 

Sound Samples

In Memoriam Mahatma Ghandi
Violin Concerto: I. Allegro ritmico
Violin Concerto: II. Lento
Violin Concerto: III. Rondo: Allegro scherzando e molto ritmico
Masai Mara, Op. 87
Megalithic Ritual Dance: Introduction: Maestoso; 1st Dance; 2nd Dance; Introduction (Reprise); 1st Dance (Reprise); Final Dance

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