The Piano Music of John Ireland Vol. 4
The fourth and presumably final instalment in Mark Bebbington’s survey of John Ireland’s complete piano music spans over 50 years: from the student pieces published at the end of his life, as In Those Days, to his last piano piece Columbine, completed in 1951; and from the familiar (such as the The Towing Path) to the obscure (the recently published Pastoral of 1895). As in previous volumes, his impeccable phrasing, sensitivity to chord-colouring, and expressive identification with the music make this new disc probably the version of these pieces to go for, despite the rival sets by John Lenehan (Naxos) and Eric Parkin (Lyrita). Bebbington’s feeling for the music pays greatest dividends when Ireland is at his subtlest and most personal, in pieces such as Month’s Mind.
In a sense, Ireland’s keyboard idiom did not change much, though his harmonic range widened as he absorbed continental influences. Bebbington understands all his moods, and is equally at home in the occasional moments of fierce exultation, as in On a Birthday Morning and the solo piano version of the Epic March (a real rarity, this). The four volumes constitute perhaps the most impressive achievement in Bebbington’s discography so far.