The construction of a performance history, that is, a comprehensive survey and analysis of the history of the performance of a particular work, brings together different approaches and sources. Ireland’s Piano Concerto in E flat major, written in 1930, offers scope for a particularly interesting exploration, given its popularity and performance by many pianists across the world. Some of the questions that might be asked include:
- Who first performed the work, and did this have a bearing on its composition? Do letters survive charting the relationship between the composer and the exponent?
- How was the work first received?
- Who subsequently performed the piece, and what do recordings of / writing about their playing tell us?
- What can we learn about individual performers and conductors?
- What can we learn about period or national styles?
- What might we learn by studying annotated scores?
Ireland’s concerto has so far been performed at the Proms on 27 occasions, as tabled below. This table throws up some very interesting statistics. It was played nearly every year for 30 years, then only rarely. It was championed by Boult, Sargent and Cameron. It was played most often by Clifford Curzon.
|Helen Perkin||BBCSO / Sir Henry Wood||2 October 1930||First performance|
|Helen Perkin||BBCSO / Sir Henry Wood||24 September 1931|
|Angus Morrison||BBCSO / Sir Henry Wood||5 September 1933|
|Helen Perkin||BBCSO / Sir Henry Wood||29 September 1934|
|Arthur Rubinstein||BBCS0 / Sir Henry Wood||1 September 1936|
|Clifford Curzon||BBCS0 / Sir Henry Wood||1 October 1938||Last Night of the Proms|
|Clifford Curzon||BBCS0 / Sir Henry Wood||16 September 1939||Also performed by Curzon at Carnegie Hall, March 1939|
|Clifford Curzon||BBCSO / Adrian Boult||30 July 1942||Royal Albert Hall|
|Clifford Curzon||LPO / Basil Cameron||10 July 1943|
|Moura Lympany||BBCSO / Boult||5 August 1944|
|Clifford Curzon||LSO / Cameron||16 August 1945|
|Kendall Taylor||BBCSO / Cameron||7 September 1946|
|Kendall Taylor||BBCSO / Stanford Robinson||29 July 1947|
|Eileen Joyce||BBCSO and LSO / Cameron||18 September 1948||Last Night of the Proms. Joyce had already recorded the concerto with Leslie Heward in 1942.|
|Eileen Joyce||LPO / Boult||10 September 1949||John Ireland 70th Anniversary Concert|
|Kendall Taylor||BBCSO / Sargent||11 January 1950||Winter Prom|
|Colin Horsley||BBCSO / Sargent||22 August 1950|
|Kendall Taylor||BBCSO / Sargent||31 July 1951|
|Colin Horsley||LSO / Cameron||2 August 1952||Horsley recorded the concerto with Cameron in 1958|
|Eric Parkin||BBCSO / Sargent||5 September 1953|
|Eric Parkin||BBCSO / Sargent||13 August 1954|
|Gina Bachauer||BBCSO / Cameron||17 September 1955||Last Night of the Proms|
|Colin Horsley||BBCSO / Cameron||20 September 1958||Last Night of the Proms|
|Eric Parkin||BBCSO / Sargent||14 August 1959||One of a number of works by John Ireland for his 8th birthday. Parkin recorded the concerto with Boult in 1968.|
|Philip Fowke||BBCScottish Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle||13 August 1979||Performed for John Ireland anniversary|
|Kathryn Stott||BBC Concert Orchestra / Nicholas Cleobury||14 August 1982||Stott recorded the concerto with Vernon Handley in 1990.|
|Kathryn Stott||BBCSO / Sir Andrew Davis||22 August 1983|