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St. Patrick's Day is upon us on the 17th March, but what does Ireland's classical music heritage have to offer? Discover the best music of the Emerald Isle with our guide to St. Paddy's day listening...
This blind harper, composer and singer had a great gift for melodic composition. Some of his compositions were influenced by continental classical music, while others such as ‘Carolan's Farewell to Music’ draw on a much older style of Gaelic Harping.
Handel made his way to Dublin in 1742 to premiere his masterful oratorio. The performance was part of a series of concerts that Handel ended up putting on in the area, and which the locals absolutely lapped up. However, the premiere didn't meet with the approval of Handel's publishers, who had wanted the concert to take place in London.
The tenor Michael Kelly was a friend of Mozart and Paisiello, and created roles in operas of both. He was one of the first singers from Britain and Ireland to get a first-rate reputation in Italy and Austria. In Italy he was also known as O'Kelly or even Signor Ochelli.
The poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer is now best remembered for the lyrics of ‘The Minstrel Boy’ and ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. He was responsible, with John Murray, for burning Lord Byron's memoirs after his death.
Composers like Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Flotow all arranged versions of Moore's popular poem. An arrangement of it was also recorded by soprano Laura Wright for her album 'The Last Rose'.
Field studied under Clementi and quickly became a famous and sought-after concert pianist, visiting Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. Field was highly regarded by his contemporaries and his playing and compositions influenced many major composers, including Chopin, Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt. He is best known today for originating the ‘nocturne’, a musical form later made famous by Chopin.
During his lifetime, Osborne was noted more for his piano playing than for his compositions. Berlioz and Chopin attended his concert and befriended him. Osborne even advised Berlioz about writing for the piano. Although he is known to have also composed two operas and several orchestral works, these are now lost.
After a short career as a violinist, Balfe pursued an operatic singing career, while composing. He wrote 38 operas, almost 250 songs as well as other works. He was also a noted conductor, directing Italian opera at Her Majesty's Theatre for seven years. His most famous work is ‘The Bohemian Girl’, loosely based on a Cervantes story, which features the popular aria, ‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls’.
Having learned to play several instruments as a boy, Wallace became a leading violinist in Dublin and a fine pianist. He and his family went to Sydney in 1836 and opened the country’s first music school. He also imported pianos and gave recitals in Chile, Peru and Argentina. His opera ‘Maritana’ was performed at Drury Lane in 1845 and was later staged in Vienna, at Covent Garden and in Australia.
Bellini's first opera, written when he was just 23 years old, couldn't have picked a better location than Ireland - the setting is central to the plot, which concerns the Anglo-Irish gentry, a heroine called Nelly and just a sprinkling of murder.
Born into a highly musical family, Stanford studied at Cambridge, Leipzig and Berlin. He was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life. Among his pupils were Holst and Vaughan Williams. He is regarded by many as responsible for a renaissance in British music.
After an early career as a church organist in Ireland, Harty moved to London to become a well-known piano accompanist. The Musical Times called him 'the prince of accompanists'. As a composer he wrote throughout his career, many of his works being well received. As a conductor, he was particularly noted as an interpreter of the music of Berlioz.
Although he was English, Bax had a great affinity for Ireland, and particularly for the work of poet W.B. Yeats. He wrote several works based on Yeats' poetry, and travelled extensively in Ireland for inspiration. From the tone poem 'Cathaleen-Ni-Houlihan' to his 'Irish Landscape', Bax was a perfect fit for the country, and he was even invited to be an adjudicator at the music festival Feis Maitiú Corcaigh in 1929.
The world-famous tenor was celebrated for his fabulous diction and breath control. In one Mozart aria, he famously sung 64 notes in one breath. He made hundreds of recordings, the first in 1904. In 1928, he was given the title of Papal Count from the Pope in recognition of his work for Catholic charities.
Otherwise known as 'The Caves of Carrig-Cleena', this was one half of Gilbert and Sullivan's attempt to encapsulate the Irish via the medium of comic opera. At its heart is a strong defence and promotion of Irish culture (a professor tasked with making Irish people more English ends up switching sides - a bit like an operatic version of 'Avatar'), but it has fallen out of regular performance despite a strong opening at the Savoy after Sullivan himself had passed away.
This short opera from Vaughan Williams (pictured) was finished in 1927, but didn't get its premiere until ten years later. It tells the tragic tale of Maurya, an elderly Irish woman who has lost most of her family at sea. There are various travels to Galway and talk of the gorgeous Irish landscape, but it ends with the cheery line, 'They are all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me.'
Known as the man with golden flute, James Galway is one of the word's most recognisable classical musicians. Throughout a sparkling career playing for the Berlin Phil under Herbert Von Karajan and an equally successful solo career selling more than 30 million records, he's always kept his Irish heritage close, even recording an album with folk band The Chieftains.
Born in Dublin, Martin has composed four piano concertos, a symphony and major choral works. He has recorded the complete piano music of the colourful 19th century pianist and composer, Gottschalk. He has given many first performances in the UK of works by William Schuman, Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein, and the first performance in Ireland of Samuel Barber's piano concerto.
The Irish mezzo-soprano has sung at all the world’s major opera houses and is well-loved for her performances in works by Handel, Mozart and Richard Strauss. In 2012, she was made an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She is a patron of the Young Associate Artists Programme of Dublin's Opera Theatre Company.
Composer Gerald Barry’s music sounds like no one else's, variously hard-edged and violent or humorous. His most recent opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, became a big success after its world premiere at Los Angeles and European premiere at the Barbican in London.
Composer Cassidy is best known for his Narrative Cantatas for orchestra and choir based on Irish Mythology. The Children of Lir released in September 1993 remained at number one in the Irish Classical Charts for a full year. He has scored and collaborated on films, notably Hannibal which features his aria, ‘Vide Cor Meum’.
The pianist Barry Douglas was only the second non-Russian pianist to win the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1986, after Van Cliburn in 1958. Nowadays he's equally well known for his conducting skills, especially with Camerata Ireland, which he co-founded.