Ireland: Piano Concerto

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ireland
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Ireland: Piano Concerto; Legend; First Rhapsody; A Sea Idyll; Three Dances; Pastoral; Indian Summer
PERFORMER: John Lenehan (piano); RLPO/John Wilson
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572598

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There have been a number of excellent recordings of John Ireland’s lovable Piano Concerto in recent years, none better than Mark Bebbington’s with the Orchestra of the Swan, but John Lenehan’s new offering with the RLPO is nearly as good, alert to the work’s many changes of mood and wide range of pianistic demands. I particularly liked his musing, elegiac take on the haunting slow movement, and the orchestral playing is impressively responsive throughout. Like Bebbington, he has the Legend as part of his coupling, a piece as dark-hued and remorselessly focused as the Concerto is playful and multi-faceted. But he also includes a crop of rarely-heard solo pieces which can stand as an appendix to the three volumes of Ireland’s piano music he has already recorded for Naxos.
 
Bebbington pipped Lenehan to the post with the first recording of the big-boned, Brahmsian First Rhapsody (1906), but the brooding 1896 Pastoral, and the beguiling little Indian Summer (1932) – actually a very different early version of what became the first movement of the Green Ways suite – are world premiere recordings. The youthful Pastoral is a surprisingly assured and evocative piece with definite pre-echoes of the mature composer. It’s good to have new recordings of the Sea Idyll and the cheerful Three Dances, too. Calum MacDonald