Joseph Holbrooke had a career as composer and conductor, but was also an accomplished pianist. In the latter capacity, on 9 December 1918 he appeared in Liverpool’s Crane Hall, in a substantial programme of contemporary English music. Among the pieces heard were Ireland’s new piano pieces, ‘Chelsea Reach’ and ‘Ragamuffin’. Holbrooke also played works by Cyril Scott, and later accompanied Astra Desmond (1893–1973) in a selection of English songs, including ‘Sea Fever’.
Ireland’s Second Violin Sonata was a work much performed by many different soloists. In 1922 Ireland’s it was taken to Birmingham by Paul Beard and Michael Mullinar. The latter is perhaps best known for his associations with Vaughan Williams, as discussed here. Beard was originally born in Birmingham and in 1922 was back in the city as leader of the CBSO, staying there for the next ten years. After that he led first the LPO, then the BBCSO.
On this day in 1932 Ireland broadcast his First Violin Sonata with violinist May Harrison, seen below with sister Beatrice, also a performer of Ireland’s music.
On 4 May 1960 the recently-formed John Ireland Society put on its inaugural concert in the Purcell Room, in a programme of songs and chamber music. ‘Adroit and persuasive’, Eric Parkin played a number of Ireland’s piano works, among them Sarnia. The tenor John Steel sang The Land of Lost Content and other songs, accompanied by Alan Rowlands, who also played for Vyvyan Kendall in the First Violin Sonata and for Thea King in the Fantasy-Sonata. The composer, now aged 80, was present, and given a huge ovation. Lawrence Norcross, best known for his work in education, was responsible for the event, and indeed for the society more broadly.
Musical Opinion 83 (June 1960), p. 600.
A number of singers are well known for their close associations with Ireland’s music, among them Gervase Elwes and George Parker, and later Peter Pears. Another to have performed his music was the contralto Muriel Foster, one of the composer’s former fellow students at the RCM and already well-known for her associations with Elgar. In June 1917, for example, Ireland gave a concert of his works at the Wigmore Hall. As part of the programme, the Second Violin Sonata was reprised following its recent enthusiastic reception, and Miss Foster performed a number of Ireland’s songs to that date.
In 1910 Ireland won first prize (a handsome sum of £40) in the Cobbett competition for his First Violin Sonata in D minor. It is interesting to look at the panel of judges. One was naturally the sponsor of the competition, Walter W. Cobbett (1847–1937). The other three were tenor and composer William Shakespeare (1849–1931), violinist Paul Stoeving (1861–1948) and the millionaire Baron Frédéric Alfred d’Erlanger (1868–1943). Erlanger (right) was a composer and banker, and as such became an important patron of the arts, especially music. Although he worked primarily for the family banking business, he also wrote a number of operas, including Tess (after Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles), and ballets, such as Les Cents Baisers, produced by the Ballets Russes in 1935.
It’s an interesting bunch, if not the most obvious panel for a chamber music competition. But it does make it easy to see why this prize attracted serious prize money: an inflation calculator shows £40 in 1910 as worth £4,296.16 today. Incidentally, second prize went to Eric Gritton (a young student at the RCM), third to a Mr O’Connor Morris and fourth to Susan Spain-Dunk. The monies were provided by Cobbett and Captain Beaumont, who was already an important benefactor and great supporter of William Hurlstone. An anonymous donor contributed a further £20, thus enabling four composers to benefit from this competition.
Source: Musical Times 51/804, February 1910, p.116.
The Macnaghten Art Gallery Concert of 2 October 1959 focused exclusively on Ireland’s chamber music, in honour of the composer’s 80th birthday. It was a programme of great variety, with an array of top soloists. Eric Parkin played Decorations, with Antonia Brosa and Angus Morrison performing the First Violin Sonata in an interpretation ‘so sensitive to Ireland’s lyrical invention’. Together with Anthony Pini on cello they then went on to play the Third Piano Trio. On the vocal side, George Parker sang a selection of popular numbers such as ‘Sea Fever’, as well as the complete Songs Sacred and Profane, this time with Alan Rowlands at the piano, whose ‘insight and stylistic command’ were much admired. Ireland and Goossens were both present to hear this concert.