Musical connections: Harriet Cohen and John Ireland

Partnerships, performances and friendships weave in and out of  John Ireland’s life. One important musical connection was the pianist Harriet Cohen (1895–1967). Her associations with the composer lasted for many years, as this very preliminary survey shows:

  • 1919. Music critic Edwin Evans brought Bridge, Bax, Ireland and Goossens together to write for him a set of variations on the French tune ‘Cadet Rousselle’, which was completed in 1918. French singer Raymonde Collignan (b. 1894) performed the song accompanied by Cohen – who was already now embroiled with Bax – in the Aeolian Hall in June 1919. Collignon can be heard here:
  • 1921. On 29 October Cohen wrote to Bax about the selection of repertoire for her upcoming recitals, to include Ireland’s recent Sonata.
  • 1924. In August she gave a performance of this Sonata in Salzburg, at the International Festival of Contemporary Music. In the same concert she accompanied Lionel Tertis in Bax’s Sonata for Viola and Piano (she recorded this later with William Primrose:
  • 1925. On 14 January Cohen played Ireland’s piano Prelude in a Wigmore Hall recital of English music that included early keyboard music. Though described as ‘somewhat heavily charged with gloom’, the highly original piano writing was captured by Cohen, ‘in particularly good form’ (Manchester Guardian, 17 Jan 1925, p. 12).
  • 1931. Ireland was one of a number of British composers contributing to the pianist’s A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen, transcribing ‘Meine Seele erhebt der Herren’.
  • 1934. On 24 August Cohen appeared at the Proms as soloist in Ireland’s Legend for piano and orchestra.
  • 1935. Cohen took music by Ireland with her on her tour of the USSR.
  • 1937. Ireland dedicated the third of Green Ways, ‘The Palm and May’, to Cohen.

More to follow.


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