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Dip Your Ears, No. 245 (The Delectable Lightness of John Ireland)

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J.Ireland, Music arranged for String Orchestra
D.Curtis / Orchestra of the Swan

John Ireland’s legacy as a teacher might be greater than as a composer; he taught a good swath of England’s 20th century music—most notably Benjamin Britten—at the Royal College of Music. But his music, too, is worthwhile. True “Surprised by Beauty” material… in fact, so beautiful is his music, that it not only got the invariable ‘tonality shrug’ in the 20th century but even now, where ideology in music is no longer an important deciding factor anymore as to whether we may or may not appreciate a particular composition, it runs a good chance of being tagged as “Light Music”.

Well, light it is, if you listen to his Downland [sic] Suite (in the arrangement of the brass band work that Ireland started and his student Geoffrey Bush finished), or pretty much any other of the string orchestra arrangements on this disc. But it isn’t fluff. Not even works like the dance-happy brief Bagatelle or the sensual Cavatina—early compositions in a salon-music-style that might remind you of Chabrier and Offenbach (or maybe Elgar in the Berceuse)—which makes for sweet interludes. Raphael Wallfisch takes all the notable cello parts—most prominently in the arranged Cello Sonata in G minor, of which a recording with Wallfisch (on Marco Polo) also exists in its original form—and lends them his regal tone without sounding overly serious in this highly entertaining music.

Is it the ideal introduction to Ireland—considering that all the works are ‘but transcriptions’? Probably as good as any, actually, given that the Downland Suite in this very arrangement is an obvious starting point for the Ireland-experience. (It is also included on this particular fine Chandos recording with Richard Hickox, which would make as good an introduction.) Whichever way you go, enjoy the breezy delight. 

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