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What a cornucopia this is for admirers of Ireland’s music, as the fiftieth anniversary of his death is marked this year. The book – 500 pages and 32 contributors – is divided into five main sections, the most substantial of which are The Man, his Circle and his Times, and The Music of John Ireland. The latter includes a chapter on every genre. Editor Lewis Foreman covers the orchestral and choral-orchestral music, providing sympathetic accounts of each work. Two musicians closely associated with Ireland’s music – Alan Rowlands and Eric Parkin – contribute valuable chapters on the composer’s ‘musical fingerprints’ and the piano music respectively. Charles Markes’ chapter on the songs – a genre of the greatest importance in Ireland’s output – deserves special mention for his full and most sensitive account of each one. To quote from his remarks on Tutto è sciolto: ‘27 bars of the most deeply felt music, its complete emotional insight belies its apparent simplicity, and a hovering, pendulous atmosphere is all-pervading’. Some of the most compelling entries on Ireland the man are by Freda Swain (very frank), Fiona Richards and Geoffrey Bush (delightfully entertaining). Robert Matthew-Walker contributes a typically comprehensive John Ireland on Record, while two reminiscences by author Jocelyn Brooke are very welcome. The formidably protective Norah Kirby, Ireland’s housekeeper, is yet another essential contributor. A discography and select bibliography are included, and a priceless 79-minute CD of historical recordings.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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