In his 1939 book The State of Music, composer Virgil Thomson proposed that the subject matter and style of music (though not its quality) reflect “the source of the money the composer is living on while writing that music”.
What would he have made of Ina Boyle, who turned 50 in 1939 and was still funding trips from her native Enniskerry to London for lessons with Vaughan Williams. Her income had little to do with music, though she did have competition success in her 20s.
She seems to have been clueless about the workings of the professional musical world. She ploughed her own furrow independently of success or failure, and although she desired performances of her work she was helpless in securing them.
Twenty-first-century interest in her music, set in motion by the research of Ita Beausang and fuelled by Catherine Leonard’s 2010 premiere of her violin concerto, has led to multiple recordings. This new album of 33 of her songs comes from a team of leading Irish singers and Scottish pianist Iain Burnside.
They do the high-inertia, pared-back songs proud. But the songs would work much better individually, in a mixed recital setting, rather than as a 77-minute sequence on their own.