Award winning pianist, composer and arranger John Lenehan’s work includes music from the 17th to the 21st century with special attention to some neglected corners of the classical library. His latest CD marks the final disc in his complete survey of the solo piano music of John Ireland.
“It’s been a long project,” Lenehan admits. “I’ve taken my time over fifteen years doing the four discs. What attracted me to it in the first place was the incredibly rich and expert way in which he writes for the piano. Everything is so beautifully laid out and from a p resting story,” say Lenahn. “Ireland seemed to have a bit of a crush on a very fine young pianist named Helen Perkin. She was much younger than he was, one of his composition students at the Royal College of Music. He was commissioned to write a concerto and I expect he could really have asked for any of the eminent pianists of the day to play the premiere. Instead he dedicated it to Helen Perkin and gave her the first performance.”
There’s even a bit more to the story. “One of the pieces that Ireland had heard Perkin play was the Prokofiev Third Concerto and there are real similarities in some of the ways in which he writes for the piano in this particular piece. Ireland also wrote very considerately for her in that she had quite small hands. Much of the rest of his piano music is written in rather large chord formations, but this piece is definitely written with her small hands in mind.”
The final CD of Lenehan’s traversal has been timed for release during the fiftieth anniversary of Ireland’s death. There’s an opportunity to play Ireland rather more than there might be normally and in fact there’s a rather large festival in London taking place in June. John Lenahan will be playing the opening and the closing concerts. And he says “there’s a lot of chamber music some which I’ve never played before so it goes on really, I’m still learning more Ireland.”