Performance

Musical Treasures from the National Library

The National Archive of Irish Composers was launched at Gleeson Theatre, DIT Kevin Street, Dublin on Friday 26th November, 2010. Featuring instrumental and vocal treasures from the National Library of Ireland, there were several modern world premieres to be heard at this unique concert. The inspiration for many of the works on the programme came from Irish airs; the same theme can be seen in the accompanying Digital Library of historic piano music. Irish opera expert, Basil Walsh, listened to the concert live via the web streaming at his home in Delray Beach, Florida, USA and had this to say:

“It was outstanding! The sound over the internet was excellent and the performances were just great. Your achievement represents a monumental step of great significance for current and future generations in Ireland and abroad, by making the music of classical Irish composers available for study and research through internet access. Something that was long overdue, and badly needed.”

The music was performed by internationally-renowned Irish pianist, Úna Hunt who is also the project’s director, and students and staff of the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin. Introducing the concert was RTE Lyric fm's presenter, Carl Corcoran.

The piano used for several performances is an original square piano, a popular domestic instrument of the period, built by Clementi and Co., and dating from c1809. Despite its name, the piano is not square but rectangular, with a key span of five and a half octaves. It was fully restored to playing condition by David Hunt of Cambridge in 2001-2002 and was kindly loaned for the launch concert by the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin.

The proprietor of the piano-manufacturing business that built the square piano was Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) who was a good businessman as well as a famous performer, teacher and composer. This instrument is particularly appropriate for performances of the works of John Field, Ireland’s best-known pianist and composer, as Clementi was Field’s teacher and mentor.

Full Concert Performance

The full performance is aproximately 90 minutes in duration.

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John Field (1782-1837)

A Favorite Scotch Air, arranged as a Rondo
(Dublin: Pigott and Sherwin, c1828)

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Catherina Lemoni-O'Doherty, square piano

John Field was born in Dublin where he performed at the Rotunda Assembly Rooms as a prodigy, aged nine. The Dublin Evening Post noted his appearance as ‘an astonishing performance by such a child’. After moving to London, Field was apprenticed to Muzio Clementi acting as demonstrator on Clementi’s pianos and later travelled with him to Russia to set up a piano showroom. Thereafter, Field established himself as a popular performer and teacher and Russia became his home until his death.

Field developed a new style of piano playing with his insistence on singing tone and the ‘floating’ feeling he achieved in his passagework. His lightness of touch and the sweetness of his cantabile phrases became legendary throughout Europe where the ‘school of Field’ was followed by many of the leading teachers including Chopin’s early mentor Jozef Elsner and Friedrich Wieck, father and teacher of Clara Schumann. Field was most noted for his invention of the nocturne, a work reflecting mood and atmosphere, at a time when the piano ‘piece’ was far from commonplace. The style of his nocturnes influenced Chopin most prominently but also affected Liszt, Mendelssohn and countless other composers.

The piano used in this performance is an original square piano dating from c1809, kindly loaned by the Royal Irish Academy of Music. The square piano was a popular domestic instrument; despite its name, the piano is not square but rectangular, with a key span of five and a half octaves. It was fully restored to playing condition by David Hunt of Cambridge in 2001-2002. The proprietor of the piano-manufacturing business that built the square piano was Muzio Clementi, Field’s teacher and mentor. This instrument is particularly appropriate for performances of Field’s works as he would have been very familiar with similar instruments.

Field’s rondo on A Favorite Scotch Air is a closely-related transcription of the slow movement of his Piano Concerto no. 1 which the composer first performed in London at the age of seventeen. It uses the popular melody from James Hook’s song: Twas within a Mile of Edinboro’ Town.
Una Hunt

attr. John Field (1782-1837)

Go to the Devil and shake Yourself, a Favorite Irish Dance
(London: Longman and Broderip, 1797)

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Barbara Dagg, square piano

John Field was born in Dublin where he performed at the Rotunda Assembly Rooms as a prodigy, aged nine. The Dublin Evening Post noted his appearance as ‘an astonishing performance by such a child’. After moving to London, Field was apprenticed to Muzio Clementi acting as demonstrator on Clementi’s pianos and later travelled with him to Russia to set up a piano showroom. Thereafter, Field established himself as a popular performer and teacher and Russia became his home until his death.

Field developed a new style of piano playing with his insistence on singing tone and the ‘floating’ feeling he achieved in his passagework. His lightness of touch and the sweetness of his cantabile phrases became legendary throughout Europe where the ‘school of Field’ was followed by many of the leading teachers including Chopin’s early mentor Jozef Elsner and Friedrich Wieck, father and teacher of Clara Schumann. Field was most noted for his invention of the nocturne, a work reflecting mood and atmosphere, at a time when the piano ‘piece’ was far from commonplace. The style of his nocturnes influenced Chopin most prominently but also affected Liszt, Mendelssohn and countless other composers.

The piano used in this performance is an original square piano dating from c1809, kindly loaned by the Royal Irish Academy of Music. The square piano was a popular domestic instrument; despite its name, the piano is not square but rectangular, with a key span of five and a half octaves. It was fully restored to playing condition by David Hunt of Cambridge in 2001-2002. The proprietor of the piano-manufacturing business that built the square piano was Muzio Clementi, Field’s teacher and mentor. This instrument is particularly appropriate for performances of Field’s works as he would have been very familiar with similar instruments.

The Irish air Go to the Devil and shake Yourself used in this work appears to have been very popular in the last years of the eighteenth century; other works based on the tune were composed by Osmond Saffery, T. Haigh, T. Latour, Karl Kambra, and Joseph Dale between c1796 and 1800. Field’s authorship of the work is very likely, as Clementi was an investor in the firm of Longman and Broderip, the publishers of the work, before setting up a business under his own name.
Una Hunt

Thomas Augustine (Timothy) Geary (1775 (1773?) - 1801)

The Silver Rain
(London: J. Bland, c1795)

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Cliona Cassidy, soprano; Una Hunt, square piano

Thomas Augustine Geary was a pianist and organist whose early death cut short a promising career as a composer. He was a choirboy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin and also trained as an organist there. At the age of fourteen he was awarded the Amateur Society’s Prize Medal for a 6-part song, With Wine that Blissful Joy bestows. He often performed at charity concerts in Dublin at which he played his own compositions, and his sets of keyboard variations on popular airs and folk tunes were widely published in Dublin and London. This song comes from a set of canzonets for one and two voices dedicated to Mrs Cradock, wife of the Dean of St Patrick’s. Among the subscribers to this publication was Wolfe Tone. Presumably, Geary’s change of name from Timothy to Thomas Augustine was inspired by his admiration of the composer Arne.
Ita Beausang

Thomas Augustine (Timothy) Geary (1775 (1773?) - 1801)

Go Gentle Zephyr
(London: J. Bland, c1795)

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Cliona Cassidy, soprano; Una Hunt, square piano

Thomas Augustine Geary was a pianist and organist whose early death cut short a promising career as a composer. He was a choirboy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin and also trained as an organist there. At the age of fourteen he was awarded the Amateur Society’s Prize Medal for a 6-part song, With Wine that Blissful Joy bestows. He often performed at charity concerts in Dublin at which he played his own compositions and his sets of keyboard variations on popular airs and folk tunes were widely published in Dublin and London. This song comes from a set of canzonets for one and two voices dedicated to Mrs Cradock, wife of the Dean of St Patrick’s. Among the subscribers to this publication was Wolfe Tone. Presumably, Geary’s change of name from Timothy to Thomas Augustine was inspired by his admiration of the composer Arne.

Ita Beausang

Thomas Augustine (Timothy) Geary (1775 (1773?) - 1801)

Norah Creena or Let me alone before the People, an Original Irish Air
(London: Goulding, Phipps and d’Almaine, c1798)

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Muireann Ní Dubhghaill, flute; Una Hunt, square piano

Thomas Augustine Geary was a pianist and organist whose early death cut short a promising career as a composer. He was a choirboy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and also trained as an organist there. At the age of fourteen he was awarded the Amateur Society’s Prize Medal for a 6-part song, With Wine that Blissful Joy bestows. He often performed at charity concerts in Dublin at which he played his own compositions and his sets of keyboard variations on popular airs and folk tunes were widely published in Dublin and London.

Geary’s Norah Creena is described on the title page as an original Irish air arranged as a rondo for pianoforte with an accompaniment for either violin or flute. The air was later used by Thomas Moore for the song Lesbia Hath a Beaming Eye (Irish Melodies, iv, 1811). The rondo is a typical example of Geary’s keyboard music composed to supply the market demand for arrangements of popular melodies. The piano part is technically undemanding, apart from some showy figuration and a cadenza, while the violin/flute accompaniment doubles the tune or imitates a drone. The second episode in a minor key provides a contrast and the piece ends with a charming coda.
Ita Beausang

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Variationen über ein irisches Volkslied (The Last Rose of Summer) op. 105, no. 4
(Vienna: Artaria, 1819)

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Muireann Ní Dubhghaill, flute; Una Hunt, square piano

Beethoven’s interaction with Irish melodies provides an interesting case study as he wrote more folksong settings than any other genre, and the majority of these are Irish. While this may seem a remarkable achievement for a composer who never set foot in Ireland, it was by no means unusual in the nineteenth century. In addition to his folksong settings, Beethoven wrote four sets of instrumental variations on Irish airs for either flute or violin and piano. These include tunes such as St Patrick’s Day and Paddy Whack and probably the most famous of all, The Last Rose of Summer.
Una Hunt

Miss Charlotte Maria Despard

Gramachree Molly, a Favorite Irish Air variations dedicated to King George the Fourth
(Dublin: Willis, n.d. [c.1821?])

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Cliona Doris, concert harp

A number of female composers are represented in the National Library of Ireland’s collections, one of whom is Charlotte Maria Despard. Little is known about this composer; her compositions were published some years before the birth of her celebrated namesake Charlotte Despard (née French, 1844 – 1939), the suffragette, novelist and Sinn Féin activist. However, the identity of the composer remains a mystery, although the unusual name does suggest a connection, particularly as her music has not been identified outside Ireland. The piece may have been written in 1821 to coincide with the visit to Dublin of King George the Fourth.
Una Hunt

Thomas Cooke (1782-1848)

St Patrick’s Day, Favorite National Air
(London, Goulding, 1805?)

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Cliona Doris, concert harp

Two Dublin musicians, Thomas (Tom) Cooke and John Field, had similar backgrounds. Both were born in the same year and belonged to musical families. Both were child prodigies and pupils of Giordani. Unlike his famous contemporary Cooke served his apprenticeship as a musician in Dublin as a performer, conductor and composer. He also opened a music shop at 45 Dame St. He led the orchestra and became music director at Crow Street Theatre and eventually went on the stage as a singer. This was such a success that he decided to move to London where he had a highly successful theatrical career. There are five portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

In 1804 Cooke displayed his versatility as a performer at a benefit concert in Dublin by playing a concertante for eight instruments including the pedal harp. St Patrick’s Day, the tune that he chose for this arrangement was closely associated with Irish identity, and audiences in Crow Street Theatre called for it as an anthem on patriotic occasions. In 1745 it was one of the tunes played by the pipers of the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fontenoy. When Edward Bunting transcribed it from the harper Patrick Quin at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792, George Petrie claimed that it had been published in Playford’s Dancing Master more than a hundred years earlier.
Ita Beausang

John Field (1782-1837)

Rondo in E flat major
(London: Clementi, 1801)

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Catherina Lemoni-O'Doherty, grand piano

This attractive rondo is the second movement of Field’s Sonata op. 1 no. 1 which was dedicated to his mentor, Muzio Clementi. The catchy rondo theme, accompanied by leaping tenths in the left hand, sets the scene for a virtuosic movement with such favourite features of Field’s pianism as cross-handed passagework and descending and ascending sequential patterns. One of the best known of Field’s works, it has been arranged for two pianos and was included by Hamilton Harty in his John Field Suite for orchestra.
Ita Beausang

William Vincent Wallace (1812 – 1865)

Two Favorite Irish Melodies, The Harp that Once through Tara’s Halls and Fly Not Yet
dedicated to Mrs Bridgman Wade of Jersey
(London: Robert Cocks and Co., 1848[?])

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Una Hunt, grand piano

Waterford-born William Vincent Wallace, composer of the opera Maritana, had an interesting life. In 1835 he left Ireland and traversed the globe, beginning with a two-year stay in Australia, where he is still regarded as the first outstanding instrumentalist to visit that continent. Crossing the Pacific to Chile, Wallace made his way northwards to New York and when he arrived back in London in 1845, romantic tales of his travels helped to attract audiences. As a virtuoso on both the piano and the violin, it is likely that he was honing his extemporisations for several years as he travelled around the world, before committing his pieces to print. In this piece, Wallace pays homage to Moore’s Irish Melodies by using the titles of Moore’s songs.
Una Hunt

William Vincent Wallace (1812 – 1865)

The Minstrel Boy and Rory O’More
(London: Robert Cocks and Co., 1856).

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Una Hunt, grand piano

Waterford-born William Vincent Wallace, composer of the opera Maritana, had an interesting life. In 1835 he left Ireland and traversed the globe, beginning with a two-year stay in Australia, where he is still regarded as the first outstanding instrumentalist to visit that continent. Crossing the Pacific to Chile, Wallace made his way northwards to New York and when he arrived back in London in 1845, romantic tales of his travels helped to attract audiences. As a virtuoso on both the piano and the violin, it is likely that he was honing his extemporisations for several years as he travelled around the world, before committing his pieces to print. It is not difficult to imagine these melodramatic works as hugely successful crowd-pleasers. In the Minstrel Boy and Rory O’More the story is told as the piano represents the harp. The musical theme is one of Moore’s most famous Irish Melodies, telling the story of the minstrel who is also a warrior. A funeral march is introduced as the minstrel boy enters the ranks of death. This is followed by an operatic-style episode signifying the rise of the minstrel’s soul to heaven, before launching into the lively Rory O’More theme and the dazzling coda.
Una Hunt

Sir John Stevenson (1761 – 1833) and Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852)

Silent, oh Moyle - The Song of Fionnuala (from A Selection of Irish Melodies)
(London and Dublin: James and William Power, vol. ii, 1808)

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Edel Shannon, soprano; Una Hunt, square piano

The celebrated poet Thomas Moore is best known for his enormously popular drawing-room songs, the Irish Melodies, published in ten volumes between 1808 and 1834. Their immediate appeal to the public was enhanced by the tunes chosen by Moore for his poetry. The airs were drawn largely from anthologies of ancient harp music, particularly the collections of Edward Bunting first published after the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Taking on a new life, Moore’s songs brought the ancient music of Ireland before a global audience for the first time. They were acclaimed both for the beauty of the melodies and their symbolic significance.

The musical arrangement is from the original edition by the prominent Dublin composer, Sir John Stevenson. Stevenson’s collaboration with Moore lasted until 1821; thereafter, the arrangements of the final volumes were composed by Henry Rowley Bishop. Stevenson’s arrangements caused controversy in their day. They were considered by many to be too elaborate and out-of-step with the simple beauty of the airs. However, it is worth remembering that they were written in the prevailing style of the time, and are heard at their best when performed on a period instrument such as the early nineteenth-century square piano by Clementi used for this performance.

Silent, oh Moyle, also known as The Song of Fionnuala intertwines the story of the legend of The Children of Lir with a political message.
Una Hunt

Sir John Stevenson (1761 – 1833) and Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852)

The Minstrel Boy (from A Selection of Irish Melodies)
(London and Dublin: James and William Power, vol. v, 1813)

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Aaron Cawley, tenor; Una Hunt, square piano

The celebrated poet Thomas Moore is best known for his enormously popular drawing-room songs, the Irish Melodies, published in ten volumes between 1808 and 1834. Their immediate appeal to the public was enhanced by the tunes chosen by Moore for his poetry. The airs were drawn largely from anthologies of ancient harp music, particularly the collections of Edward Bunting first published after the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Taking on a new life, Moore’s songs brought the ancient music of Ireland before a global audience for the first time. They were acclaimed both for the beauty of the melodies and their symbolic significance.

The musical arrangement is from the original edition by the prominent Dublin composer, Sir John Stevenson. Stevenson’s collaboration with Moore lasted until 1821; thereafter, the arrangements of the final volumes were composed by Henry Rowley Bishop. Stevenson’s arrangements caused controversy in their day. They were considered by many to be too elaborate and out-of-step with the simple beauty of the airs. However, it is worth remembering that they were written in the prevailing style of the time, and are heard at their best when performed on a period instrument such as the early nineteenth-century square piano by Clementi used for this performance.

Moore glorifies the power of music and Irish culture with the symbolic destruction of the harp in the story of The Minstrel Boy.
Una Hunt

Sir John Stevenson (1761 – 1833) and Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852)

Believe me, if All those Endearing Young Charms (from A Selection of Irish Melodies)
(London and Dublin: James and William Power, vol. i, 1808)

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Edel Shannon, soprano; Aaron Cawley, tenor; Una Hunt, square piano

The celebrated poet Thomas Moore is best known for his enormously popular drawing-room songs, the Irish Melodies, published in ten volumes between 1808 and 1834. Their immediate appeal to the public was enhanced by the tunes chosen by Moore for his poetry. The airs were drawn largely from anthologies of ancient harp music, particularly the collections of Edward Bunting first published after the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Taking on a new life, Moore’s songs brought the ancient music of Ireland before a global audience for the first time. They were acclaimed both for the beauty of the melodies and their symbolic significance.

The musical arrangement is from the original edition by the prominent Dublin composer, Sir John Stevenson. Stevenson’s collaboration with Moore lasted until 1821; thereafter, the arrangements of the final volumes were composed by Henry Rowley Bishop. Stevenson’s arrangements caused controversy in their day. They were considered by many to be too elaborate and out-of-step with the simple beauty of the airs. However, it is worth remembering that they were written in the prevailing style of the time, and are heard at their best when performed on a period instrument such as the early nineteenth-century square piano by Clementi used for this performance.

Believe me, if All those Endearing Young Charms is one of Moore’s most internationally recognised creations, a song that has enjoyed so much celebrity, it even found its way into several Warner Bros. cartoons. In its original form, presented here as a duet, it was justly celebrated: a simple and sincere lyric and a song of true and undying love.
Una Hunt

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