Ireland: My Song is Love Unknown

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: John Ireland
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Ireland: My Song is Love Unknown
WORKS: Te Deum in F; Benedictus; Communion Service in C; My Song is Love Unknown; Elgiac Romance; Evening Service in C; Christ the Lord is risen today (Stampford); Four Unaccompanied Carols; Greater love hath no man; I am trusting; Ex ord innocentium; Cappricio; Island Paradise; Evening Service in F
PERFORMER: Lincoln Cathedral Choir/Aric Prentice; Charles Harrison (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573014

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Here’s an excellent idea: a whole CD of John Ireland’s church music, which tends to be scattered piecemeal in anthologies. The impression it makes is very positive, not least in the longest work included, a Communion Service written in 1913. There’s a stack of text to get through here, and Ireland’s setting is a model of meaningful concision, with rich lyrical writing in individual movements. The brief but heartfelt Benedictus, and the poignantly soft-spoken Agnus Dei, with expressive solo work from soprano Bryony Waddington and bass Stephen Clay, are two highlights.

The same incisiveness of purpose and economy of musical methodology marks both settings of the Evening Service. The F major has a specially affecting Nunc Dimittis, where the clean attack and alluring tonal finish of the boy-girl sopranos catch the ear particularly. The lower voices aren’t so smoothly blended, with some nasality intruding. The tenor line is wavery and undernourished in the exposed opening of the anthem Greater love hath no man, though once again the tutti singing is convincingly uninhibited.

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Terry Blain