Irish Love Song
Theme and Variations
On a May Morning
Three Piano Pieces
Iris Loveridge (piano)
Recorded June & July 1958 and May 1959 in The Music Room, Burnham, Buckinghamshire
Reviewed by: Peter Joelson
Reviewed: July 2008
CD No: LYRITA REAM.1103
Duration: 62 minutes
Iris Loveridge (1917-2000) was a well-loved pianist who gave concerts and recitals, including broadcasts, from the late 1930s until 1995. She had a wide repertoire, which included works by contemporary British composers, some of whom wrote music for her. Far from a temperamental performer, she had a no-nonsense approach to concerts which allowed her music-making to be judged completely on its own merits; in addition she was not above appearing with lesser-known groups and semi-professional orchestras, always ready to offer encouragement to amateur performers.
She was regarded for finding the depths in the music she played, without turning the piece into a parody of itself. This can be heard to good effect in some of the simpler pieces by E. J. Moeran (1894-1950, his birth reported as 1864 in Lyrita’s annotation) on this mono re-release that plays for 61’48” rather than the stated 60’12”. Like Eric Parkin, Loveridge never undervalues miniatures, endowing them with enough gravitas to make them shine. Irish Love Song and On a May Morning are performed with much success. Loveridge’s technique was very fine and leaves the impression that she had plenty in reserve.
Moeran’s Theme and Variations makes demands on the pianist which Loveridge takes in her stride, quite riveting at times and very cleanly articulated; the finale with its grand finish is achieved with wit and grandeur. Three Fancies – written in 1922 – gives the pianist a wide variety of colours to draw from the instrument. ‘Windmills’, with its rotating triple-time rhythm and Presto marking call for delicacy; and the middle section, when the wind has dropped, needs the calm it gets here. ‘Elegy’ is dark and sustained, and ‘Burleske’ has a rumbustious Baxian feel to it. The following Summer Valley was dedicated to Delius and has elements of his ethos with rich harmony and delicacy. Three Piano Pieces (1919) opens with ‘The Lake Island’ with its gently lapping motif; ‘Autumn Woods’ is quite descriptive with its stormy interlude and ‘At the Horse Fair’ is a bustling scene full of good humour.
Loveridge played and recorded much British music; she recorded three volumes of Bax for Lyrita and played concertos by Gordon Jacob and Alan Rawsthorne, among others. Jacob (1895-1984) wrote his Piano Sonata for her in 1957. In four movements, it gives the pianist plenty to do and encompasses a wide variety of moods. The first movement is slow and thoughtful, the second, after a short introduction is a busy and demanding scherzo, the third greatly expressive, and the finale has plenty of brio, ending the work with an optimistic air, the pianist having to articulate with some virtuosity! Loveridge more than copes with all the demands of this inventive and moving piece and produces a splendid performance.
Pianists like Iris Loveridge are forgotten all too easily despite the significant contributions they made during their careers, so it is very good to have this reminder of her art. These recordings date from Lyrita’s very early days, recorded in The Music Room at Richard Itter’s house in Burnham. The sound is quite intimate as one would expect from a recording made in a smallish room, and though sounding a bit dated compared with Lyrita’s later and wonderful issues, is not difficult at all to tune one’s ears into. There are more ‘early’ Lyrita issues to look forward to, among them York Bowen’s recordings of his own music and Loveridge’s survey of Bax.