Roger Smalley on John Ireland

[Roger+Smalley.jpg]Composer and pianist Roger Smalley moved to Australia in 1974. Born in Manchester, he has strong feelings for the music of John Ireland. I interviewed him in Perth in March 2004, and this is what he had to say about the appeal of the English composer:


Well…you know – when you live away from the place where you were born and brought up, you tend to develop a nostalgic kind of picture of it, and this is what John Ireland’s music seems to exemplify. And it’s not just a sort of wallowing – you could frequently accuse Bax of wallowing even though the ideas are great – the Sixth Symphony of Bax is my favourite at the moment, and that’s because the first movement doesn’t wander around too much. Ireland has this nostalgia which is bitter sweet and has a yearning quality to it. He certainly knew how to put a piece together. In Bax’s piano pieces you can often miss a couple of pages out and wouldn’t notice, but not in Ireland. John Ireland’s music did develop, and became much sparser and more dissonant– the Sonatina especially is very Hindemith-like. I think he must have known Hindemith’s Second Sonata. And there are pieces like Aubade where he seems to be trying an almost constructivist approach to harmonies by working out from a central note and doing them in mirror fashion and so on. The one piece I can’t play is Equinox – I just can’t last the distance with those rotating figures. So he reflects my nostalgia for the most pleasant aspects of England: Salisbury’s beautiful, Sussex, I’d like to go and do a tour of the places that inspired John Ireland.


On the Sussex Downs

Mark Fisher: ‘On the Sussex Downs’






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