John Ireland (1879-1962) wrote copious amounts of chamber and piano music, and numerous songs, not least the wonderful Sea Fever (setting Masefield). His orchestral output perhaps attracts less attention, yet something like Epic March (1942, a consciously patriotic World War II piece) certainly stirs the spirit, a companion to Elgar’s five Pomp and Circumstances and Walton’s Crown Imperial (he had yet to write Orb and Sceptre) with an equally memorable ‘big tune’ middle section. John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London do well with it, save for a reticent xylophone, and backward bells in the closing peroration, which is not a reflection of Ralph Couzens’s first-class engineering or Brian Pidgeon’s high-end production values, if without quite emulating the sweep and intensity of Boult’s LPO Lyrita recording. Similarly, a spectre of yesteryear, Barbirolli, haunts A London Overture (1936) with his LSO/HMV version, yet Wilson and company are perfectly fine on their own terms, whether in atmosphere or the “Dilly, Piccadilly” rhythms (owing to a bus conductor), and glowing with affection.

If you like A London Overture, then Satyricon (1946) should also appeal, although, to my mind, here’s a composer struggling to find something new and allowing too much of the London piece (and Walton’s Scapino, 1940) to seep into it, although clarinet-led lyricism is very attractive and true to the composer. Otherwise, A Downland Suite (1932, for brass band, given here in Ireland and Geoffrey Bush’s string-orchestra transcriptions) comes of well, especially the heartfelt ‘Elegy’ (Finzi-like) and the gaily-tripping ‘Minuet’ (the two movements the composer arranged), an earworm brought off with a light touch. Energy, drama, colour and contemplation inform Mai-Dun (1921), whereas The Forgotten Rite (1913) radiates sepulchral mystery (and a smidgen of complementary birdsong from outside St Augustine Kilburn) as well as some impassioned rhetoric (with celestial harp swirls), to which The Holy Boy is the perfect, beatifically beautiful, riposte. Chandos CHSA 5293 [SACD]. Maybe one day from SoL and Wilson, Ireland’s Piano Concerto with Peter Donohoe, perhaps with him re-recording Alan Rawsthorne’s two.

https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%205293

Roderick Williams & Julius Drake. Leeds Lieder 2016.