John Ireland: The Forgotten Rite; Mai-Dun; A Dowland Suite; Epic March; A London Overture; Satyricon; The Holy Boy

John Wilson / Sinfonia of London

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John Ireland: The Forgotten Rite; Mai-Dun; A Dowland Suite; Epic March; A London Overture; Satyricon; The Holy Boy Review

by Keith Finke

The successful new life of the Sinfonia of London, brought about by conductor John Wilson in 2018, rolls along with this recording of orchestral works by John Ireland. He was not a prodigious composer for orchestra; several of these works started life for other instrumentation, and none are heard or recorded often. Ireland was a conservative composer, strongly influenced by studies with the esteemed Charles Villiers Stanford, who instilled in his students the music of Beethoven, Brahms, and other German Romantics. After leaving school, Ireland drew influence from the French Impressionists, and in this vein, he produced the earliest work heard here, The Forgotten Rite, from 1913. After reading two of Arthur Machen's novels, Ireland's interest in ancient lore and customs was kindled, inspiring this "Prelude for orchestra," though with its imagery calling to mind a pagan ritual, it can be classified as a tone or symphonic poem. On Christmas day of that year, he penned The Holy Boy: A Carol of the Nativity, the third of his four preludes for piano. Perhaps the composer's most popular and enduring work, Ireland arranged The Holy Boy for several different instrument combinations, finally orchestrating it nearly three decades later. Aside from literature, much of his music drew inspiration from the natural world and the idea of mystical connections to places. Along these lines is the symphonic rhapsody Mai-Dun, which evokes Dorset's Maiden Castle, taking the title for his work from the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. The Sinfonia of London delivers a beautiful reading of this work, and one hopes its presence here will help it find its way onto the programs of more orchestras. The high quality of the performers that Wilson employs for the orchestra comes through fully in this recording, as does the conductor's control of the ensemble.

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