How Piccadilly inspired an Overture

The Village Hall in Heston in the Borough of Hounslow (this village coincidentally the birthplace of E.J. Moeran) was the setting for an illustrated talk on his music given by Ireland himself. It is fascinating to see what Ireland chose for his talk. He began by introducing the Phantasie-Trio, using the Grinke Trio recording. Following this introduction he played the piano, selecting ‘April’, ‘The Island Spell’ and ‘Ragamuffin’ after a ‘fascinating description of the events and places that supplied the ideas and themes from which the works developed’. The final part of the first half of the talk concluded with excerpts from Grinke’s recording of the First Violin Sonata.

Refreshments followed and the second half resumed with a focus now on orchestral music, featuring Eileen Joyce’s recording of the Piano Concerto with the Hallé. Ireland explained the work’s construction at the piano. The last item of the evening was A London Overture, chosen as an example of the seed from which a composition may grow, with the write-up concluding: ‘Not a small part of the success of this meeting was due to the charm and gracious personality of Dr. Ireland’.

Although the newspaper report that supplies this information and provides the title of this blog post is not identified or dated, existing only as a cutting in a scrapbook, Ireland’s talk can be pinned down as taking place at least after 1940, as that is when Joyce recorded the Concerto. Most likely it was during the early 1940s, before Satyricon and the Fantasy-Sonata, as it would have made sense for Ireland to have included these works otherwise. So a guess is around 1941.

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A London Overture abroad

Continuing the theme of performances of Ireland’s music outside Britain, in the early 1940s A London Overture was widely travelled, making it north to Riga and  as far south as Johannesburg. Worthy of note is that Ernst Praetorius conducted the piece at the Ankara Conservatoire. German-born Praetorius (18801946) was an almost exact contemporary of Ireland. From 1922 to 1924 he was music director at the Volksoper in Berlin, later of the German National Theatre in Weimar. The combination of his marriage to a Jewish woman and commitment to the contemporary music hated by the Nazi Party forced him out of paid employment. After seeking exile in Turkey, along with Hindemith he helped found the new conservatory in Ankara in 1936, where Ireland’s music was subsequently heard.