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Track(s) taken from CDA67261/2

Songs Sacred and Profane

composer
1930/1

John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: September 1998
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Mike Clements & Mike Hatch
Release date: June 1999
Total duration: 6 minutes 11 seconds
 

Reviews

'Perhaps these discs will at last bring the best of his songs back into live recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Three excellent young British singers share the treasures recorded here under the sage aegis of Graham Johnson. Lisa Milne's bright, keen soprano is lovely, John Mark Ainsley is a model of style and verbal clarity and young Christopher Maltman continues to show the promise that won him the Cardiff Lieder Prize in 1997' (The Sunday Times)

'A welcome, long overdue event. Excellent introduction to unduly neglected repertoire' (Classic CD)

'Ireland was a songsmith to rival the finest this country has produced, and Hyperion's generous anthology will hopefully encourage others to explore this rewarding and rapt repertoire' (Hi-Fi News)
The Songs Sacred and Profane, written over two years on either side of 1930, principally showcase two female poets: Alice Meynell {The Advent and My Fair) and Sylvia Townsend Warner {Hymn for a Child, The Soldier's Return and The Scapegoat). Alice Meynell (1847-1922) was also an essayist and critic. A convert to Roman Catholicism in 1868, she gained a special reputation for the poetry she wrote reflecting a sense of religious mystery. Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978) was the daughter of a master at Harrow School. A novelist as well as a poet, she also joined the editorial board of the Church Music project in 1917 and then spent ten years working on the milestone ten-volume Tudor Church Music publication. In some literary circles her poetry was considered to fit her for the title of the 'female Thomas Hardy'. The one other poem in the set, The Salley Gardens, is by W B Yeats.

Working on this sequence of songs formed a significant element in Ireland's emotional and musical recuperation from the shock of his disastrous marriage. This is no cycle, rather a loose assemblage of songs reflecting aspects of human and religious experience. The Advent expresses the ordinary human side to the extraordinary fact of the incarnation of Christ. Hymn for a Child is a deliciously witty retelling of the Biblical story of the young Jesus confounding the elders in the temple, complete with rhymes so dreadfully droll they are delightful. The song ends with an ironic (child's?) prayer for help in emulating such discreet behaviour as displayed by Jesus, the 'nicely brought up child'. My Fair is a passionate love song, though one which is fully aware of the finite nature of that love. Its complexities are then cleaned off the palate by the beautiful, wistful lines of The Salley Gardens, about a youthful experience of being rejected in love. The Soldier's Return pictures the arrival home to his girl of a soldier—on foot, as the tramping, martial accompaniment would make clear to us even if the words were indecipherable. Lastly, The Scapegoat is a laugh at the expense of 'righteous' men in town snootily pleased with themselves for finding redemption from sin through the services of the goat. But it is the goat (as the skipping, jumping accompaniment makes clear) who really is free. Ireland was the pianist for a performance of this song during a Festival of Britain concert at London's Wigmore Hall in 1951. By all accounts he had the audience belly-laughing at his playing of the accompaniment under the words 'Dances on, and on, and on!'.

from notes by Andrew Green 1999

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