A London Overture
Piano Concerto in E flat
The Forgotten Rite
These things shall be
Eileen Joyce (piano)
Redvers Llewellyn (baritone)
Luton Choral Society
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult
Recorded 10 September 1949 in Royal Albert Hall, London
CD No: LPO – 0041 Duration: 68 minutes Reviewed: November 2009
John Ireland 70th-Birthday Concert [LPO/Boult/Eileen Joyce 1949]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This very welcome release brings us material from deep in the archives, a fascinating document, the cavernous, pre-mushroom Royal Albert Hall sounding remarkably vivid for so long ago, enough for cymbals and trombones to be surprisingly crude for this conductor! Furthermore, and this is not always guaranteed with ‘historic’ issues on the LPO label, the re-mastering is faithful to what a live orchestra sounds like.
Sir Adrian Boult’s authoritative conducting of the always-delightful A London Overture embraces purpose and affection, the “dilly, Piccadilly” section (mimicking bus-conductors' cries) given with smile-inducing swagger and point, and with some resilient and lovely playing along the way. John Ireland’s Piano Concerto was very popular at the Proms of yesteryear and attracted some notable pianists, including Artur Rubinstein, Clifford Curzon, Gina Bachauer and Moura Lympany. Eileen Joyce is heard in this Royal Albert Hall concert to mark the composer’s 70th-birthday. She had recorded it in 1942 with the Hallé Orchestra and Leslie Heward; and in this performance with Boult she gives a seasoned but still-fresh performance that is sympathetically accompanied to bring lyrical loveliness, playfulness, edge and festive vitality to the outer movements and heartfelt refrains to the beautiful slow movement (music of infinite sadness sensitively etched here by strings and pianist alike).
The Forgotten Rite suggests distant shores and mystical rituals, this Ireland selection ending with These Things Shall Be” (a BBC commission at the time of King George VI’s coronation in 1937 to words by John Addington Symonds), music that is reflective and patriotic-sounding, Redvers Llewellyn (who died in 1975) the expressive baritone in the section beginning “Nation with nation, land with land / Unarmed shall live as comrades free”, Ireland (1879-1962) at his most Elgarian.
This deeply expressive and emotionally soaring piece ended but the first half of this Prom (The Forgotten Rite coming before the Piano Concerto it seems, the order reversed on this LPO release). For the record, maybe literally if the LPO can issue these too, the concert’s second half found Boult conducting the Suite from Kodály’s Háry János, followed by the ‘Credo’ aria from Verdi’s Otello (no doubt with Mr Llewellyn as Iago) and, finally, the ‘Polovtsian Dances’ from Borodin’s Prince Igor (with chorus!). Quite a feast!