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Chris Green
Opus Klassiek, March 2012

IRELAND, J.: Sextet / Clarinet Trio / Fantasy-Sonata / The Holy Boy (Plane, Rahman, Maggini Quartet) 8.570550
IRELAND: 5 Poems / We’ll to the Woods No More / Sea Fever / Santa Chiara (English Song, Vol. 18) 8.570467
IRELAND, J.: Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Lenehan) - Decorations / Sonatina / Leaves from a Child’s Sketchbook 8.553889

The budget label Naxos is to be commended in recording many of Ireland’s works for voice and for instruments with a Trio for clarinet, cello and piano reconstructed by Canadian Stephen Fox being given its first recording in a programme in which the clarinet features in a dominant musical role. Robert Plane is the clarinettist with Sophia Rahman (piano), Alice Neary (cello) and David Pyatt (horn). The Maggini Quartet join for the Sextet for clarinet, horn and quartet composed in 1898. In between the two major chamber works comes the gentle songThe Holy Boy (1913) and the Fantasy Sonata for the same combination during the darkest days of the Second World War. As usual, the accompanying CD booklet offers a full and illuminating commentary on the background to these works which feature Ireland’s favourite instrument, the clarinet…

The songs are a joy to hear and, even more so, to sing. Roderick Williams (baritone) and Iain Burnside (piano) traverse twenty-seven of these brief master pieces which include some of his most famous settings such as Sea Fever (1913), If there were dreams to sell (1918) and Vagabond (1922). Often the writing is muscular, at other times so gentle…

The Ireland legacy continues on the Naxos label with John Lenehan playing ten of his piano works…and here there are all the typical Ireland’s thumbprints—the love of melody in the right hand, the little grace notes that decorate the melodies and the surprising harmonies which display the influence of Ravel, Stravinsky and Gershwin. © 2012 www.opusklassiek.nl



R Moore
American Record Guide, September 2008

Naxos is offering a superb banchetto musicale for Anglophiles with its English Song Series. The present release (Volume 18) is a triumph as Roderick Williams teams with lain Burnside once again for 26 of the 91 songs of John Ireland plus one “song” for piano only, ‘Spring Will Not Wait’. Like Finzi, Ireland turned to the poems of Hardy and Housman; unlike Finzi, his songs are far more simple and straightforward in their musical language but with a richly varied breadth of expression.

From the rollicking ‘Great Things’ (1925) to the autobiographically disheartened ‘We’ll to the Woods No More’ (1927), this anthology of songs includes settings of fine texts by Joyce, DG Rossetti, and Yeats, two cycles of songs on Hardy texts and one on Housman texts, and his signature song, a setting of Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’. If you have not discovered his music, this is a wonderful introduction to his songs.

Williams has exactly the right voice for these songs, and he sings them with great sensitivity, beautifully nuanced phrasing, and exquisitely controlled vocal technique. It’s a gorgeous voice. Burnside’s playing is also commendable. The spatial perspective of the sound is just right, and the recording quality is pristine. This is an entirely praiseworthy recording, and another volume of Ireland songs by Williams and Burnside would be most welcome.



John Steane
Gramophone, September 2008

Singer and pianist manage to pin down Ireland’s elusive quality

Despite the popularity of “Sea Fever” and (literally) two or three others, the songs of John Ireland are often found oddly inaccessible. I would say that this recital will facilitate access. Of all the acknowledged masters of English songs in the 20th century Ireland is the hardest to pin down, to identify even. It has something to do with an elusiveness about his writing for the voice. When you look at the piano parts you feel contact with a pair of hands (his) touching the keyboard; but (with few exceptions) it’s hard to believe that he “sang” the songs as he wrote. The point here is that Roderick Williams is such a good singer he can make the voice part sound vocal and natural in a way not many have succeeded in doing. The songs are high for baritone, low for tenor, and they are written in a way that seems not to know of the difficulties of passing from one area of the voice to another or returning to a particular region with uncomfortable persistency. For Roderick Williams such difficulties seem hardly to exist. The listener’s task eases proportionately.

Before going further, it should be said that the pianist, Iain Burnside, plays with a sureness of touch to match the highly skilled naturalness of Williams’s singing. And it has to be added that Williams still does not seem to be a communicator in song in the sense that we can see the images flash before him (Terfel-like) as he sings the words. Sometimes, as in “The Vagabond” (Masefield, not Stevenson) and “If there were dreams to sell”, he catches the mood extraordinarily well even so. Conscious of resorting finally to the personal and subjective, I have to report finding more sympathy, a clearer feeling for Ireland’s anxious tenderness and uneasy joy than in any previous recital of his songs.



Hilary Finch
BBC Music Magazine, July 2008

Sound:  
Performance:  

CHORAL AND SONG DISC OF THE MONTH

Every word is tasted, pungently flavoured, and given vigorous new life, with Iain Burnside’s piano playing sentient to every second of Williams’s singing.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

Without doubt one of the very best British song discs in the CD catalogue.

John Ireland has yet to receive the attention that Naxos has given to other English composers of his era, but this makes an excellent start. Born in 1879, he was a composition product of Stanford at London’s Royal College of Music. He then went through a period of admiration for the German romantic tradition before falling under the influence of the French impressionists. Though finally becoming a nationalist that followed in the general footsteps of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, you will find in these songs that he is one of the very few who formed the bridge leading towards Benjamin Britten and those to follow. He was a master of song as these twenty-seven tracks will show. They all date from 1913 to 1925, his middle period which proved to be his most fertile in all forms of composition. Many, such as Sea Fever and The Sally Gardens, became popular ballads, but most have received little attention on disc. The content covers a range of emotions drawing on famous poets, including Hardy, Masefield and Stevenson, many of them fashioned into short song cycles, We’ll to the Woods, Five Poems by Thomas Hardy, forming a substantial part of the disc. If there were dreams to sell and Youth’s Spring Tribute are my personal favourites and counter the sadness of Her Song. Roderick Williams is the baritone soloist and I have never heard him in such fine voice, his quality spelling out the reason for his current popularity in the UK. Usually I complain when booklets do not carry the words, but diction here is so perfect that we do not need them. With the ever attentive accompanist, Iain Burnside, and ideal sound quality, this is a disc you cannot afford to miss.






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8:41:47 PM, 31 January 2015
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