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17647958
17647958

A Downland Suite

By John Ireland

A Downland Suite
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String Orchestra (violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, bass) - grade 5
Composed by John Ireland (1879-1962). Orchestra Music. Score only. Duration 16:20. Published by C. Alan Publications (CN.S31001).

Item Number: CN.S31001

A Downland Suite is structured classically, revealing itself in the loose sonata form of the Prelude, the song-like Elegy, the Minuet, and a last movement which utilizes the Rondo. Tight thematic unity between movements gives the work its cohesion. The Elegy melody provides the kernel and the rising fourth interval is seminal. Ireland gives us our clue by repeating the Elegy theme in the last movement. In fact, the opening Rondo theme is virtually the Elegy (but played four times as fast) and the Minuet is the Elegy theme in inversion.

A Downland Suite is one of a pair of works Ireland wrote for brass band (the other being Comedy Overture) in the 1930s. Both were commissioned by the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, and this piece was completed in 1932. Ray Steadman-Allen's skillful arrangement was published in 1985. Interestingly, the composer himself freely adapted the Elegy and Minuet for String Orchestra and the adaptation of the outer movements for strings was undertaken some years later by Geoffrey Bush, one of Ireland's many eminent composer pupils. A Downland Suite is structured classically, revealing itself in the loose sonata form of the Prelude, the song-like Elegy, the Minuet with formal repeats and full Trio, and a last movement which utilizes the Rondo framework of a recurring theme reappearing in different keys. But within this classical form are unsettling elements. The tonal relationships between movements of the suite becomes more remote as the work progresses. The first movement is in C Minor, the second in Eb Major, the third in Bb Major (with a Trio in Bb Minor) and the last opens in G Minor and ends with blazing fanfares in G Major, a long way from the sombre mood of the opening. The phrase structure of the Minuet is sometimes unexpected: an 8-bar phrase opens, but Ireland mirrors it with a 9-bar phrase! In fact, throughout the work, the music reaches over bar-lines, phrases are extended, and strong beats displaced. Tight thematic unity between movements gives the work its cohesion. The Elegy melody provides the kernel and the rising fourth interval is seminal. Ireland gives us our clue by repeating the Elegy theme in the last movement. In fact, the opening Rondo theme is virtually the Elegy (but played four times as fast) and the Minuet is the Elegy theme in inversion. The interval of the fourth (sometimes manifested as a falling fifth) is emphasized throughout the first movement. Add to this the octave leaps, the pillars around which the Prelude is constructed, which find their way into the Rondo as the opening accompaniment, and the mature composer's high art of achieving unity within diversity of structure and style is revealed.