Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The John Ireland Companion

I must mention a new book published by Boydell Press entitled ‘The John Ireland Companion’. www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewitem.asp?idproduct=13776             


Boydell Press
600 pages
ISBN: 9781843836865

Edited by that great champion of British music, Lewis Foreman, this is a magnificent achievement, pulling together a colossal amount of material on Ireland. Complete with a full list of works and a bang up to date discography this is a must for all lovers of British music and, in particular, John Ireland enthusiasts.

This is not in any sense a biography. That is something that has been problematic for years due to the lack of information and documentation of his early years. This was compounded by the difficulties over his estate following the death of his friend and housekeeper Nora Kirby. To find out more about that you will have to read this fascinating book.

Nora Kirby jealously guarded Ireland’s reputation to such an extent that she ran the risk of having the opposite effect. The artist, writer on music and friend of Arthur Bliss, George Dannatt, was commissioned by Nora Kirby to write a biography but gave up despite a couple of years compiling material. The reason for this was the constant interventions from Mrs Kirby by way of letters and telephone calls.

Eventually a journalist, Muriel V Searle, undertook the task and the completed biography ‘John Ireland – the Man and His Music’ was published by Midas Books in 1979. I have a tatty old copy of this biography, which is a heavily sanitised account of his life, no doubt due to the interference of Mrs Kirby.

So this new book fills a gaping hole in our knowledge of the composer and includes numerous articles about John Ireland grouped under sections entitled ‘The Man, his Circle and his Times’, ‘Ireland’s Pupils on their Teacher’ and ‘Notable Articles on Ireland and his Music’. There is also a section devoted to Ireland’s own writings on ‘Music and Musicians’, a list of Ireland’s addresses throughout his lifetime and even a short section about Ireland’s handwriting.

The book includes a generous number of photographs and many musical examples.

This huge collection of information would be unwieldy if it wasn’t so well set out and well indexed. This is a huge achievement and Lewis Foreman is owed a great debt by British music lovers for bringing all this material together in one volume.

An additional attraction is the CD that is included with this book. On this CD you can hear John Ireland talking about Stanford and Beethoven, Ireland playing two of his piano works in broadcast performances and two works in piano roll performances, as well as him conducting an extract from The Forgotten Rite.

Add to this Helen Perkin in historic recordings of Ireland’s Sonatina and a selection of songs recorded in his lifetime and you have an invaluable and fascinating disc.

At a list price of £40.00 this book is excellent value but checking on-line I see that it can be purchased for a little as £30.00. What else can I say other than, if you love British music, buy this book.

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