INTERPRETING JOHN IRELAND’S BALLADE
Keywords:structural analysis, hermeneutics, interpretation, topics, performance
A handful of John Ireland’s works have become relatively popular and these have tended to attract the label “English pastoral”, a stereotype which does not reflect the range of genres, styles and emotions that can be found in the composer’s oeuvre. The Ballade of 1929 is a case in point exploring, as it does, an array of moods, topics and emotions that are a long way from pastoralism, and it also features a structural economy and directional intensity which place the work in the tradition of 19th-century musical narration. It thus presents itself as a richly-endowed vehicle for both conventional and hermeneutic analysis, raising a number of research questions: how do structural and hermeneutic analyses interrelate? What role do topics and the composer’s biography play in the musical narrative? How do the foregoing questions relate to a performance of the work? Answers to these questions form the substance of the article which concludes by offering thoughts on how the various strands may be projected in performance. The article is illustrated with extracts from the author’s own video recording.
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