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A Sheaf of Songs from Leinster, Op 140

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Just as Stanford had been impressed by the work of Moira O’Neill, he was equally affected by the poetry of Winifred M Letts (1882-1972), born in County Wexford, educated in England before returning to Dublin where she produced plays for the Abbey Theatre and the Gate Theatre. Letts’s first poetry collection, Songs from Leinster, published in 1913, was an instant success and sold many copies. Almost instantly after their appearance, in July 1913, Stanford composed A Sheaf of Songs from Leinster Op 140 and a month later he completed a further cycle, A Fire of Turf Op 139, though the two were published in reverse order by Stainer & Bell. The least musically consistent of the two is the Leinster collection; yet, arguably, it contains one of Stanford’s finest and most enduring utterances in song, A Soft Day, which, with its distinctively Irish expression, captures the warmth and scents of a misty day in a euphonious lyricism. The Bold Unbiddable Child is another patter song, though this time the rapid delivery of syllables is used to portray the angry speech of a parent shouting after a disobedient son. The theme of Irish Skies, of exile in London, was one that undoubtedly had some autobiographical significance for Stanford. His yearning, ultimately for an ‘idyllic’ Ireland of his past, is depicted in the modal fluctuations to C major from the ‘grey’ background of C minor that hovers oppressively over the song. The darker hues of this splendid miniature have a Brahmsian reminiscence (the opening progression, for example, is suggestive of Brahms’s ‘Auf dem Kirchhofe’ Op 105 No 4), but in those passages of white-note transparency, which evoke an atmosphere of reverie, Stanford’s true individuality shines through, most of all in the truly luminescent coda which surely must have reached the ears of Ivor Gurney.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2000


Stanford: Songs, Vol. 1
A Treasury of English Song
This album is not yet available for downloadHYP30Super-budget price sampler — Deleted


No 3: A soft day  A soft day, thank God!
Track 29 on CDA67123 [2'13]
Track 23 on HYP30 [2'13] Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
No 5: The bold unbiddable child  Now what is he after below in the street
Track 30 on CDA67123 [0'50]
No 6: Irish skies  In London here the streets are grey, and grey the sky above
Track 31 on CDA67123 [4'36]

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