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Ex ore innocentium

First line:
It is a thing most wonderful
composer
1944; S solo + SS tutti; dedicated to Sir Sydney H Nicholson
author of text

 
Written in 1944 and first sung in Durham Cathedral at an RSCM summer school, Ex ore innocentium (‘Out of the mouths of innocents’), a setting of Bishop Walsham How’s ‘It is a thing most wonderful’, takes the form of a through-composed, elegiac song which, on this rare occasion, Ireland chose to couch in the richer post-Romantic palette of his secular music. The structure of Ex ore innocentium is one of balance and beauty. The first verse, in E flat, is given to a solo treble (or semichorus), the second to the full chorus of trebles who, in the more melancholic vein of C minor, conclude on a questioning half-cadence. Contemplation of Christ’s agony (‘I sometimes think about the Cross’), signals a shift to the Neapolitan minor (E minor) and the first of two climactic passages underpinned by the more intense two-part texture of the boys’ voices. The first of these climaxes concludes in E major from which, through Ireland’s subtle conversion to an augmented sixth, the tonality is allowed to enter the darker world of D flat minor (‘But even could I see him die’). This, however, is but a passing shadow, for a series of sequences transports the vocal lines relentlessly to a second climax on top A flat (‘which, like a fire’) and the arrival of the dominant of E flat. Ireland’s handling of this harmonic ‘catastrophe’ and its appositeness to How’s words is masterly, as is the plaintive air of yearning in the transition to the reprise, typical of so many passages in his piano music and songs.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2017

Recordings

Allegri: Miserere
Studio Master: SIGCD085Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Finzi, Bax & Ireland: Choral Music
Studio Master: CDA68167Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Track 10 on CDA68167 [3'44]
Track 2 on SIGCD085 [4'05] Download only

Track-specific metadata

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