Ireland’s church music has a modest restraint, compared with the output of Bairstow, Howells and Parry. But his significant contribution has stood the test of time, remaining popular to this day. Jeremy Dibble’s informative booklet-notes point to the influence of Stanford and one also notes an Elgarian grandeur and melodic inventiveness with a touch of modal harmony in the manner of Vaughan Williams.
Lincoln Cathedral Choir under Aric Prentice’s enthusiastic direction give excellent performances, with impeccable blend and ensemble. The balance between the lower and upper voices is ideal, and the overall sound is crowned by the bright-toned trebles. There are some accomplished solo choristers and it’s refreshing to hear the choir’s gentlemen singing without the operatic tone heard in other cathedral choirs. Prentice favours flowing tempi, which are occasionally a little too fast, bearing in mind Ireland’s metronome and tempo markings.
Charles Harrison also adopts a brisk pace in the organ solo Capriccio to stunning virtuoso effect. He’s equally fine in the Elegiac Romance – a masterpiece, with its brooding, almost Mahlerian intensity. The 1898 Father Willis organ sounds magnificent, although rather subdued in the choral accompaniments. The blame for this lies with the recording, which tends to favour the choir over the organ.
Full marks to Prentice for devising such a varied programme of choral items and to Harrison for choosing Ireland’s two best organ solos. A very enjoyable and rewarding disc, showcasing the fine quality of British cathedral music-making.