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Ireland: Orchestral works - Wilson

Ireland: Orchestral works - Wilson

Chandos  CHSA 5293

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Ireland: The Forgotten Rite, Mai-Dun, A Downland Suite, Epic March, A London Overture, Satyricon, The Holy Boy

Sinfonia of London
John Wilson (conductor)


John Ireland was something of a child prodigy, entering the Royal College of Music at the age of fourteen. There he studied piano, organ and composition (under Charles Villiers Stanford). He quickly progressed to significant positions as an organist, whilst continuing to pursue his interests as a composer. The Forgotten Rite, from 1913, is one of his earliest orchestral compositions, and was premièred by Sir Henry Wood at the Queen’s Hall. The symphonic rhapsody Mai-Dun was inspired by the Dorset countryside – Thomas Hardy Country – a landscape that exerted a lifelong influence on Ireland. While it was commissioned for the national Brass Band Championships in 1932, Ireland later arranged the central two movements of A Downland Suite for strings. The first and last movements were later arranged by his pupil Geoffrey Bush. The overture Satyricon was one of Ireland’s final large-scale works, and is based upon texts by the Roman writer Gaius (or, in some sources, Titus) Petronius Arbiter, a courtier of Nero. A London Overture and the Epic March were both commissioned by the BBC – the latter as a morale-booster during World War II. It was during this period that Ireland orchestrated The Holy Boy – a piano piece composed on Christmas Day in 1913.

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Review by Graham Williams - July 9, 2022

Very few, if any, record companies have been more assiduous in promoting British music than Chandos and this is especially true in the case of John Ireland (1879-1962). Both Richard Hickox and Bryden Thomson recorded a considerable quantity of Ireland’s music for the label some years ago and it is gratifying to note that John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London have now followed up their previous recording of ‘English music for Strings’ with one devoted entirely to the orchestral works of this composer.

Wilson has already shown himself to be an enthusiastic advocate of Ireland’s music – he recorded an almost identical programme with the Hallé Orchestra in 2007 – but with the benefits of multi-channel SACD and the usual superb Chandos engineering this new release will be a first choice for many collectors, though in performance terms Adrian Boult’s marvellous Ireland survey from the 1960s should not be ignored.

The seven works recorded here span Ireland’s career between 1913 and 1946 but (unlike the excellent liner notes by Andrew Burn) are not presented chronologically in order to provide a programme with variation in pace, mood and texture.

Wilson’s accounts of two of the composer’s most imaginative and haunting works, the Symphonic Rhapsody ‘Mai-Dun’ and ‘The Forgotten Rite’, are thrillingly delivered, thanks to the precision and polish of the Sinfonia of London, though it must be said that Hickox’s more leisurely account of the latter is marginally better at evoking the ‘mystical aspects’ and ‘occult forces of nature’ referenced in the programme notes for the work’s first performance. Both The ‘Dowland Suite’, originally written for brass band, and ‘The Holy Boy’ – the third of Ireland’s ‘Four Preludes’ for piano – are given here in transcriptions for string orchestra in poised performances that perfectly illustrate the imaginative and expressive range of the Sinfonia’s splendid string section.
The remaining large scale works – the witty ‘Satyricon’ Overture (1946), the ‘London Overture’ (1936), are crisply and incisively played while the Waltonesque ‘Epic March’ of 1941 has impressive swagger and is capped with a weighty organ at its conclusion. All are delivered in the exuberant manner we have come to expect from Wilson and his orchestra.

The sound is clear and luminous, thanks to the acoustic of the orchestra’s chosen recording venue (the Church of St. Augustine, Kilburn, London), and has a wide but detailed sound stage.

In all respects this is a most welcome addition to the catalogue and makes one eager for the next release from this winning combination of outstanding musicians.

Copyright © 2022 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comment by breydon_music - July 18, 2022 (1 of 8)

I'm sure I'm not the only person to have been deeply moved by the Sinfonia of London / John Wilson Prom last night. Dare we hope, especially after the wonderful Ireland disc, that Chandos will give us a Tallis / Enigma / Tintagel disc sometime in the not too distant future?

Comment by hiredfox - July 22, 2022 (2 of 8)

+1 if they are watching!

Comment by breydon_music - July 25, 2022 (3 of 8)

The next Sinfonia / Wilson SACD appears to be a Hollywood-based concert, due in September.

Comment by John Bacon-Shone - July 25, 2022 (4 of 8)

Unfortunately, it seems the next release is CD only

Comment by breydon_music - July 27, 2022 (5 of 8)

Tower Japan have it listed on their site with catalogue number CHSA5294 - they are usually accurate and if correct that would certainly make this a SACD.

Comment by Graham Williams - July 28, 2022 (6 of 8)

Amazon have it listed as a SACD release for September 9 in the UK and provide this information.

Korngold’s Overture from the private lives of Elizabeth and Essex which opens the programme is an excellent demonstration of his rich, chromatic sound-world that set a blue-print for the Hollywood sound and so many composers that followed. Although the songs were written by Harold Arlen, it was Herbert Stothart’s score for The Wizard of Oz that won the Oscar, and it is his suite from the movie that features here. There are also suites from Max Steiner’s Now, Voyager and Franz Waxman’s Rebecca (receiving here it’s premiere recording). Shorter pieces from David Raksin, Frederick Lowe, Johnny Mandel and Alfred Newman complete this rewarding programme.

Comment by John Bacon-Shone - July 28, 2022 (7 of 8)

Indeed, Chandos have updated their website, which previously showed it as a CD. Great news!

Comment by john hunter - August 6, 2022 (8 of 8)

Although I love the repertoire, as a CD,it was a non starter.
Now just ordered at Presto and can't wait.