WORKS: A Downland Suite; Orchestral Poem; Concertino pastorale; Two Symphonic Studies (arr. G. Bush)
PERFORMER: City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9376 DDD
John Ireland’s Downland Suite, influenced by his beloved Sussex countryside, must surely be one of the most appealing string works in all English music. Hickox lovingly shapes the sublime second subject of the Prelude, the meltingly beautiful Elegy and the charming Minuet, without allowing the Romanticism to become cloying. The Concertino pastorale is a strong contrast. Written shortly before the Second World War in 1939, it reflects its times with dark clouds hanging over Downs that are now wrapped in more sombre hues.
The Orchestral Poem is an early work strongly influenced by Brahms and Stanford. It is dramatic enough and colourfully orchestrated but it shows little of the mature Ireland and is therefore more of academic interest. Hickox gives a stirring performance, and he realises all the excitement of the huge cattle drive across the vast expanse of Australia, the subject of the Two Symphonic Studies from the film music for The Overlanders. The work demonstrates Ireland’s skill in evoking scene and atmosphere and flair for the dramatic; you can see the animals stirring in the immense, hot and dusty landscape that is the great Australian outback. An interesting and valuable collection. Ian Lace