John Ireland Piano Works Vol. 4
Jerry Dubins in Fanfare Magazine (USA) wrote:
John Lenehan plays all of this music with consummate artistry and technical skill, and there’s not a single work on this disc that doesn’t give enormous pleasure. At Naxos’s budget price, it’s a steal, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Ireland’s music and would like to acquire a sampling of it….The solo piano pieces, by the way, were recorded in the beautiful acoustic setting of the Champs Hill Music Room in 2007 and, though Lenehan’s instrument is not identified, the sound is gorgeous. The concerted works with orchestra were recorded in early 2011 at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, a venue which also seems to have provided an ideal acoustic for these particular works. Strongly recommended.
The Piano Concerto is a glowing and powerful work and it receives a performance to match here — one, indeed, to rival its major competitors.
Daily Telegraph (Geoffrey Norris)
John Ireland’s Piano Concerto of 1930 receives a thoroughly sympathetic, lucid performance, as does the ominously darker Legend of three years later. The concerto, while infused with Prokofiev’s zest, is pure Ireland in spirit, an amalgam that Lenehan captures ideally, as he does the passion of the First Rhapsody and A Sea Idyll. A delightful disc. (5 stars)
BBC Music Magazine (Callum McDonald)
John Lenehan’s new offering with the RLPO is alert to the work’s many changes of mood and wide range of pianistic demands. I particularly liked his musing, elegaic take on the haunting slow movement and the orchestral playing is impressively responsive throughout. “Legend” is a piece as dark-hued and remorselessly focused as the Concerto is playful and multifaceted. 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. The brooding 1896 “Pastoral” and the beguiling little “Indian Summer” (1932) are world premiere recordings. The youthful “Pastoral” is a surprisingly assured and evocative piece with definite pre-echos of the mature composer. It’s good to have new recordings of the “Sea Idyll” and the cheerful “Three Dances” too.
David Denton’s “Review corner”
This is the fourth and last disc in John Lenehan’s much acclaimed survey of the complete piano music of John Ireland. The composer’s private life had not been without trials and tribulations. Then into its midst came a young piano pupil, Helen Parkin, who was to have a major impact on his music. He dedicated some fine songs to her, and in 1930 began work on the Piano Concerto also to carry her name. She gave the first performance at a London Prom concert that year in the Queen’s Hall, and four years later had a highly enthusiastic response to her premiere performance of the Legend, a more robust score for piano and orchestra. The disc then turns to Ireland’s works for solo piano from his younger years, the brilliant and passionate First Rhapsody dating from 1906 and written very much in the late Romantic era. We go back a further ten years for a student piece, Pastoral, only discovered many years after his death. Keyboard music did not feature greatly in this early period, though four years later he added the three-movement A Sea Idyll which paints a picture of his favourite subject. Three Dances date from 1913, their simplicity pointing to a use as teaching pieces. Critically acclaimed, Lenehan’s has proved himself to be a most persuasive champion throughout the cycle. In the concerto he is excellent, his playing lucid, nicely paced and in the quiet passages possesses the desired limpid quality. Here, and in his powerful account of the Legend, he is admirably partnered by the Liverpool orchestra in fine form conducted by John Wilson. The sound is excellent.