March 2017 sees the 100th anniversary of a work which propelled its British composer into the limelight; the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor by John Ireland. Violinists Susanne Stanzeleit, Louisa Stonehill, Midori Komachi, Sophie Rosa, and Horia Vacarescu will be amongst the soloists taking up the work to commemorate the centenary.
On 6th March 1917 a remarkable concert took place at London’s Aeolian Hall. An expectant music world had heard that the composer, John Ireland, had written a powerful violin sonata which was to be performed by the celebrated English violinist Albert Sammons and the Australian pianist William Murdoch, both on leave from the Grenadier Guards. Sammons had been famously photographed in uniform playing his violin on top of a tank in London’s Trafalgar Square.
“A memorable work by Mr. John Ireland” A reviewer, catching the mood of the time, reported that “…the recital was made memorable by the introduction of one of the finest works by which British chamber music has been enriched even in these prolific days.” The performers, playing in uniform, impressed the audience to such an extent that it made Ireland an overnight success - a rare event in the annals of chamber music.
As Ireland wrote, “For me it was an electrifying occasion. Little of my music had been publicly heard, and I felt that my fate as a composer was to be decided at that particular moment in time, as proved to be the case....it was probably the first and only occasion when a British composer was lifted from relative obscurity in a single night by a work cast in a chamber music form.”
Several of the centenary concerts are being supported by the John Ireland Charitable Trust; the organisation formed in 1968 to promote awareness of Ireland's works through recordings, performances and publications.
Bruce Phillips, Director of the Trust, explained: “When we think of the great flowering of British music that blossomed towards the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland tends to be overlooked in that star-studded galaxy! Whereas most of the composers of his generation excelled in the larger forms of music, Ireland’s main contribution lies in the smaller forms of chamber music, piano music and song. That said, he wrote a handful of outstanding works for orchestra including his well-known Piano Concerto and A London Overture.”
Performances of the work programmed from violinists and pianists during 2017 include Midori Komachi and Simon Callaghan, Sophie Rosa and Benjamin Powell, Susanne Stanzeleit and John Thwaites, Louisa Stonehill and Nicholas Burns, and Horia Vacarescu and Rebeca Omordia.
Unsigned reviews, which also list the accompanying works in the premiere performance, are available to read on the John Ireland Trust website as well as listings of forthcoming performances of works by the composer: www.johnirelandtrust.org