Guest Post: A Review of Ina Boyle’s Violin Concerto, at the Opera Theatre of the Sanremo Casino with the San Remo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maria Luisa Macellaro la Franca

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Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo

Direttore: Maria Luisa Macellaro

Violino solista: Razvan Stoica

Would Enniskerry born, Ina Boyle be surprised to hear her violin concerto being performed in Sanremo, on 7 March 2019, 86 years after it was composed, by a brilliant Romanian violinist with a first-rate symphony orchestra under the baton of a female conductor of boundless energy? No, and Yes. Ida Boyle had a highly developed sense of her mission as a composer and having lived for her music it was only proper that her music lived on for her. But the art nouveau Teatro del’ Opera del Casino di Sanremo, designed by the greatest of Italian playwrights of the 20th century, Luigi Pirandello, was the perfect setting for the European premiere of her violin concerto.

The concert celebrated not only Sanremo in fiore (the annual Festival of Flowers, dating from la Belle Époque) but also the eve of International Women’s Day and Ina Boyle’s 130th birthday. Mimosa and golden broom were in full bloom all over the open spaces of the town and surrounding countryside. Spring had arrived in one of the most favoured resorts on the Italian Riviera. Here in 1874 Tchaikovsky, as the guest of the Empress of Russia, finished his fourth symphony and the opera Eugene Onegin. The sun shone for him. As it also did for Edward Lear a few years later, when he escaped his reputation for comic verse to create marvellous landscape paintings of this region.

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The orchestra opened the programme with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ from the Nutcracker Suite. Aptly, not only for the floral theme, but also for the spirit of the dance in which joy is sometimes touched with a passing melancholy. More so with Ina Boyle’s work which was dedicated to the memory of her mother. There is both pain and joy in the finale of the concerto, although the duos between violin and timpani suggest ‘rest in peace, amen’.

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The soloist, Razvan Stoica, and the orchestra were directed with verve and sympathy by the conductor, Maria Luisa Macellaro. Boyle’s music soared, danced and sighed, with surprising changes of mood. The performance would have erased Ina’s disappointment when the BBC rehearsed the work in the 1930s but didn’t broadcast it. The audience were enthralled and clamoured for the encores which followed. First a virtuoso rendering of a Paganini caprice, so fast that Razvan Stoica seemed to play pizzicato and arco simultaneously on his 1729 Stradivarius. The second encore was a movement from a little-known Paganini violin concerto, arranged for orchestra by Maria Luisa Macellaro.

The second half of the concert, Stanford’s rousing ‘Irish’ symphony, was so exciting that some of the audience couldn’t resist applauding between movements. Maria Luisa Macellaro unleashed the orchestra to patriotic fervour with Moore’s Melodies ‘Remember the glories of Brien the brave’ and ‘Let Erin remember’. It was a fitting contrast to Ina Boyle’s more restrained expression. The effect perhaps represented the masculine and feminine in Irish music, with both composers finding their voice.

The concert overran by a good half-hour and ended too soon. The audience included three Irish supporters of Ina Boyle and her music. Afterwards, walking the fashionable streets of Sanremo, they noticed the number of chic shops displaying designer high-heeled shoes. It was a far cry from Ina Boyle’s wellington boots but she would have been walking on air.

James Hogan

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You can read more about Enniskerry born, Ina Boyle on Wikipedia HERE and her musical links with World War 1 HERE on this website ‘The History of the Grey Stones’.

Music and World War 1 – Ina Boyle (1889-1967)

The centenary of the Armistice brings music that was composed during WW1 into focus. Several works composed by the Irish composer Ina Boyle (1889-1967) reflect the impact of the war on her family and neighbours in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.

On 21 October 1914, soon after the outbreak of the war, Captain Henry Stanley Monck of the Coldstream Guards, son of Viscount Monck of Charleville House, was killed in action in St. Julien. There are two plaques in St. Patrick’s Church, Enniskerry – where Boyle’s father, Rev. William Foster Boyle, was curate – a Monck Memorial and a Great War Memorial to commemorate ten members of the parish who lost their lives in the war. A brass communion rail and chancel, designed by Lord Powerscourt, was inaugurated in their memory on Easter Sunday 1919.

On 4 September 1915 Captain Grenville Fortescue, 11th Battalion, husband of Ina Boyle’s cousin, Adelaide Jephson, and father of two children, was killed in action in France at the age of twenty-eight. On 24 May 1918 Lieutenant Patrick Bryan Sandford Wood, R.A.F., aged nineteen, eldest son of the composer Charles Wood, who was married to Ina’s cousin Charlotte, was killed in an aeroplane accident on active service in Italy, where he is buried in Taranto Town Cemetery.

In 1915 Ina Boyle composed two anthems ‘He will swallow up death with victory’ a Funeral Anthem, (Isaaih XXV 8,9) for solo soprano, choir and organ, and ‘Wilt not Thou, O God, go forth with our Hosts’, an Anthem for Intercession for choir and organ. The latter was dedicated to the 36th (Ulster) Division,and was to have been performed by the choir of Derry Cathedral but could not be sung as so many of the men in the choir had gone to war.

A hundred years later it was performed for the first time in 2016 in St. Columb’s cathedral Derry, for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Among Boyle’s ‘Early Compositions’ in TCD Manuscripts Library there is a setting for voice and piano, dated December 1916, of Rudyard Kipling’s poignant poem ‘My boy Jack?

“Have you news of my boy Jack? “

Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide

The most ambitious work composed by Ina Boyle during the war is ‘Soldiers at peace’ (1916), a setting for choir and orchestra of a sonnet by Captain Herbert Asquith, second son of the British Prime Minister. It was performed in 1920 at Woodbrook, Bray by Bray Choral Society, conducted by Thomas Weaving, then organist at Christ Church cathedral.

Although she paid £11.7.0 in 1918 for publication of the vocal score by Novello the work did not have another performance until 3 November 2018, when it was performed in London by the Highgate Choral Society and the New London Orchestra, conducted by Ronald Corp

Dr. Ita Beausang