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Em Marshall
Albion Magazine Online, January 2009

John Lenehan continues his recording of John Ireland's piano works with this third volume. [Vol 1, 8.553700 and Vol 2, 8.553889 are also available—Ed.] The disc includes the Piano Sonata, the Four Preludes (of which the third is yet another arrangement of Holy Boy), and several solo piano pieces, including the slightly more substantial Ballade of London Nights. The works are all played with conviction, sensitivity and sincerity.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, October 2008

Lenehan offers a uniquely vital and dramatic reading of the Sonata… because Lenehan allows for urgent peaks but give necessary space for reflective lyricism. …In the finale he displays a perky confidence and striding power and surety that is unusual. The Preludes are excellent examples of Lenehan’s quite extrovert take on Ireland’s music generally – he brings a more muscular and tensile, less introvert approach, which is valuable on its own terms. … Ballade of London Nights is powerfully done and expands nicely at a standard tempo …Amberley Wild Brooks is against brisk and bracingly extrovert…In the main then Lenehan’s are finely chiselled, just a touch steely performances, perfect for those who find Ireland too sanguine and becalmed.

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, October 2008

Lenehan…whips up quite a gale in [the “meaty” Piano Sonata’s] first movement’s development. …Lenehan effortlessly maintains the favourable impression left by the first two instalments in this series [Vol 1  8.553700, Vol 2 8.553889]. With his pellucid, exquisitely variegated tonal palette, he makes a gorgeous thing of The Almond Trees, plumbs real depths in Spring will not wait and the central “Cypress” from Green Ways, and masterminds superbly involving accounts of the gale-tossed Equinox and mercurial Ballade of London Nights. What’s more, he has been accorded crystal-clear yet nicely atmospheric engineering.

John France
MusicWeb International, September 2008

…this CD is an excellent addition to the growing conspectus of John Ireland’s Piano Music. …The most important composition on this CD is the Piano Sonata. This demanding work was written between 1918 and 1920 and is one of the great Sonatas in the 20th century piano repertoire. Ireland is reported to have said that the first movement was about “Life” the second was “more ecstatic” and the last was “inspired by a rough autumnal day on Chanctonbury Ring & [the] old British Encampment”.  Ireland’s music has certainly been influenced by the Sussex Downs…I enjoyed Lenehan’s playing of this complex work. He manages to explore and even perhaps get behind some of the deepest mysteries in this work. The light and shade in this Sonata is well defined by the pianist and the interest never flags for a moment. I think the CD is worth purchasing for this performance alone.

Lenehan provides a convincing recital of most of the other pieces on this CD. In particular I was impressed by his performance of the Preludes—finding that he brought some new insights to Fire of Spring in particular.  Greenways are approached with feeling and understanding—especially Ireland’s reflection on the Cherry Tree—which must forever suggest Housman’s depressing lines about the transience of life. I feel that On a Birthday Morning lacks a little of the Grainger ‘clattering’ dynamic.  The piece was composed for erstwhile choirboy Arthur George Miller’s birthday and is signed to be played ‘gaily’ and proceeding ‘fresh and joyous.’ It just seems to me to lack a little vitality.

And lastly one of the minor pleasures of this disc is the relatively unknown The Almond Trees. This miniature, which makes use of the pentatonic scale, is quite unusual in Ireland’s works. It is both impressionistic and bewitching.

For Remembrance from Two Pieces (1921) is well played (look out for a prophecy of ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’!). One of my Ireland ‘touchstone’ pieces is Amberley Wild Brooks. As a place it holds a special magic for me and as music it is a fine ‘evocation of the beauty of the Sussex countryside’. Lenehan presents this piece as an urbane composition. It is certainly a town person and not a rustic looking at the landscape. There are no cows here. However, the water motif is never far away from this enchanting work.

And finally, Equinox is a difficult piece to bring off. The metrical imbalance of the work must always have a tendency to lead to errors of judgment in any interpretation. Yet Lenehan presents this involved evocation of the Sussex countryside with considerable accomplishment.

I can certainly recommend this CD.

John France
British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content, September 2008

The most important composition on this CD is the Piano Sonata. . .I enjoyed Lenehan’s playing of this complex work. He manages to explore and even perhaps get behind some of the deepest mysteries in this work. The light and shade in this Sonata is well defined by the pianist and the interest never flags for a moment. I think the CD is worth purchasing for this performance alone.

Jed Distler, September 2008

2008 brings us the long-anticipated sequel to 1999's second volume in Naxos' John Ireland piano music cycle. Read full review at ClassicsToday

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2008

At the age of thirteen, and without his parent’s knowledge, John Ireland presented himself for audition at London’s Royal College of Music and was accepted as a piano student. Three years later he became a composition pupil of Stanford, though his early attempts in establishing himself as a composer did not meet with success. With money inherited from his parents and an income as church organist and choirmaster, his lifestyle afforded him ample time to write. The autumn of his long life was spent in the rural surroundings of West Sussex, the outcome of this strange life was a rather slender catalogue of works, But he was a perfectionist, and even the early success of his Phantasie Trio in 1906, composed when he was twenty-seven, failed to spur him on to greater efforts. Throughout, you have the feel of a composer who would have been successful in writing light music but was pushing himself to create something of greater import. Even in the opening movement of a work carrying the grand title of Piano Sonata, we have a most beautiful cameo melody, each of the sonata’s three movements being brief, the finale less than three minutes. The most extensive piece is Green Ways,created from three extended musical pictures.Ireland never engaged with the rapidly changing musical world of the early 20th century, as the remainder of the disc shows. There is the famous The Holy Boy, known in many versions ( here as part of the Preludes), the gentle beauty of The Almond Trees, and the happy On a Birthday Morning,written for one of his former choirboys. There is the fragrance of nostalgia in Two Pieces, andthe disc concludes with the unfinished Ballade of London Nights, a piece seemingly a series of London scenes and probably written quite early. My favourite is the lyrical Spring will not wait, also written for the recipient of On a Birthday Morning. As with the two previous volumes, John Lenehan proves an unfailingly persuasive champion, and you feel he shares Ireland’s feel for nostalgia. Impeccable audio quality with a totally realistic piano sound. A top recommendation.

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