Ireland

Ireland—John Kinsella
British music critic and founder of Toccata Classics, Martin Anderson
directed my attention to a release by the Irish label, RTÉ lyric fm,
containing the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, along with two other
orchestral works, of Irish composer John Kinsella (b. 1932). I had
only vaguely heard of him. I saw a blurb by BBC Radio 3, proclaiming
Kinsella ‘‘the most significant Irish symphonist since [Charles Villiers]
Stanford’’. Since I had never been inspired to listen to a Stanford
symphony more than once (though I found much to admire in
his Requiem and Stabat Mater), this did not lead me to expect much.
What were the odds that Kinsella would turn out to be a major symphonist,
even though he has 10 such works to his name? Well, the
praise turns out to have been a considerable understatement. Here is a
composer punching in the heavy-weight class (though there is nothing
pugnacious about his music). The works on this disc (CD 134) pack
a wallop. They immediately led me to obtain the only other available
recording of his symphonic works, a Marco Polo CD (8.223766) containing
Symphonies nos. 2153 3 and 4, made back in 1996.
The quality of these four works is such that the fact that all 10 symphonies
are not available in recordings constitutes some kind of scandal.
There is no room here to give individual impressions of the four
symphonies. In general, I would say that Kinsella offers a potent combination
of the influences of Bruckner and Sibelius, melded into his
own distinctive voice, which bursts forth in volcanic eruptions ofbrass
and timpani, deployed and layered in so effectively that they scale the
heights of expression. The acknowledgment of Sibelius is explicit in
the Seventh, about which Kinsella wrote, ‘‘It would be true to say that
this work was written with a keen awareness of Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony.’’
This is in the way of homage rather than imitation. The same
is true of the Bruckner influence, evident in Kinsella’s ability to build
symphonic moments of overpowering mass and uplift. He wrote that ‘‘parts ofmy Third Symphony visit Bruckner’s sound world . . . The
work is entitled ‘Joie de Vivre’ but it is[HA[HA8] 8] about the joy of ‘Being
alive’ rather than the standard interpretation of that phrase.’’ Dedicated
to his parents, ‘‘Part one is the masculine section’’, he writes, ‘‘part
2154 two is the feminine’’, and he is the coda.
The brilliance of his highly imaginative, fantastical orchestration did
not lead me to think of Stanford, but ofBerlioz. A first-chair musician
from a major orchestra to whom I introduced the Kinsella symphonies,
wrote to me: ‘‘He certainly loved the bassoon, I must say. He’s like
Mahler was to the trumpet towards the bassoon. Even within familiar
tonal language, he strikes me as quite unique in the colors and feelings
he achieves. That’s hard to do standing on the shoulders of so many
2155 greats that came before’’.
This is viscerally thrilling music, thoroughly engaging, rhythmically
propulsive, and essentially lyrical. By emphasizing the massive, electrifying
deployments of brass and timpani, I do not mean to slight
Kinsella’s equally effective evocations of stillness and joy. The performances
by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra must have warmed
the composer’s heart. By all means (and you can easily find it on the
Internet), obtain a copy of this RTÉ lyric fm CD, so that you can hear
what I am talking about. Then see if you can track down a copy of the
2156 Marco Polo CD.
More of the still and contemplative side of Kinsella is available on a
CD from the Irish Chamber Orchestra on its own ICO label, (available
at: http://www.irishchamberorchestra.com/backstage/purchase-cd/ or
at Amazon.co.uk, or as MP3 from Amazon and other internet sites).
The CD is titled Hommage: John Kinsella, and offers some wonderful
string music: Symphony no. 9; Hommage a Clarence; Nocturne for Cello
and String Orchestra; Elegy for Strings; and Prelude and Toccata for String
Orchestra. I wondered how Kinsella, shorn of his virtuoso abilities for
orchestration, would fare with strings alone. The answer is: quite as
well as did Britten, Holst, or Bridge in their string works. The Symphony
is actually quite spirited, with an infectious rhythmic vivacity,
and highly transparent writing that plays off both Johann Cruger’s and
<> J. S. Bach’s versions of the hymn tune Jesu meine Freude. The Presto
impetuoso movement is pure exhilaration. The still part comes in the
deeply ruminative Largo, which is almost Arvo Pärt-like in its approach
to the very edge ofsilence. This is followed by a highly animated Allegro and capped off with a sprinting Vivace. Hommage begins with Sibelian
murmuring in a string ostinato, with an exquisitely tender lament in
the solo violin. It is a tribute to a fallen violinist friend. Nocturne for
Cello and String Orchestra is Kinsella’s equivalent to Samuel Barber’s
Adagio for Strings. It is ravishingly beautiful. Elegy for Strings is the moving
slow movement of the Ninth Symphony recast as a free-standing
work. This well-played 2158 CD is worth the search.
%% begin author supplied (4/9/15) as replacement section
The acknowledgment of Sibelius is explicit in the Seventh, about
which Kinsella wrote, ‘‘It would be true to say that this work was
written with a keen awareness of Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony’’. This
is in the way of homage rather than imitation. The same is true of the
Bruckner influence, evident in Kinsella’s ability to build symphonic
moments of overpowering mass and uplift. He wrote that ‘‘parts of
my Third Symphony visit Bruckner’s sound world . . . The work is
entitled ‘Joie de Vivre’ but it is about the joy of ‘Being alive’ rather than
the standard interpretation of that phrase’’. Dedicated to his parents,
‘‘Part one is the masculine section’’, he writes, ‘‘part two is the femi2161
nine’’, and he is the coda.
The brilliance of his highly imaginative, fantastical orchestration did
not lead me to think of Stanford, but ofBerlioz. A first-chair musician
from a major orchestra to whom I introduced the Kinsella symphonies,
wrote to me: ‘‘He certainly loved the bassoon, I must say. He’s like Mahler
was to the trumpet towards the bassoon. Even within familiar tonal language,
he strikes me as quite unique in the colors and feelings he achieves. That’s hard
2162 to do standing on the shoulders of so many greats that came before’’.
%% where is preceding text 2155 to be cut? why italics?
This is viscerally thrilling music, thoroughly engaging, rhythmically
propulsive, and essentially lyrical. By emphasizing the massive, electrifying
deployments of brass and timpani, I do not mean to slight
Kinsella’s equally effective evocations of stillness and joy. The performances
by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra must have warmed
the composer’s heart. By all means (and you can easily find it on the
Internet), obtain a copy of this RTÉ lyric fm CD, so that you can hear
what I am talking about. Then see if you can track down a copy of the
2163 Marco Polo CD.
More of the still and contemplative side of Kinsella is available on a
CD from the Irish Chamber Orchestra on its own ICO label, (available at: http://www.irishchamberorchestra.com/backstage/purchase-cd/ or
at Amazon.co.uk, or as MP3 from Amazon and other internet sites).
The CD is titled ‘‘Hommage: John Kinsella’’, and offers some wonderful
string music: Symphony No. 9; Hommage a Clarence; Nocturne
for Cello and String Orchestra; Elegy for Strings; and Prelude and Toccata
for String Orchestra. I wondered how Kinsella, shorn of his virtuoso
abilities for orchestration, would fare with strings alone. The answer
is: quite as well as did Britten, Holst, or Bridge 2164 in their string works.
The Symphony is actually quite spirited, with an infectious rhythmic
vivacity, and highly transparent writing that plays off both Johann
Cruger’s and J. S. Bach’s versions of the hymn tune Jesu meine Freude.
The Presto impetuoso movement is pure exhilaration. The still part
comes in the deeply ruminative Largo, which is almost Arvo Part-like
2165 in its approach to the very edge of silence.
This is followed by a highly animated Allegro, and capped offwith a
sprinting Vivace. Hommage begins with Sibelian murmuring in a string
ostinato, with an exquisitely tender lament in the solo violin. It is a
tribute to a fallen violinist friend. Nocturne for Cello and String Orchestra
is Kinsella’s equivalent to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
It is ravishingly beautiful. Elegy for Stings is the moving slow movement
ofthe Ninth Symphony recast as a free-standingwork. This well-played
2166 CD is worth the search.
Digital Classics ( JBCC 083) offers Kinsella’s Cello Concerto,
written for cellistCarlos Prieto in 2000, accompanied by Shostakovich’s
Cello Concerto no. 1 and Celso Garrido-Lecca’s Cello Concerto, with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa, under Luis Herrera de la Fuente.
Kinsella’s 25-minute virtuoso work is almost like one giant cadenza,
with an incredibly long-lined and verymemorable melody for the cello,
fabulously framed with his imaginative orchestration. But clearly the
2169 cello is the star here. Why isn’t this work in the repertory?
Does Ireland know what a treasure it has in this man’s music? It
2170 should tell the world.

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