Three Pastels

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Three Pastels is a set of three pieces for piano solo composed in 1941 by John Ireland. [1]

John Ireland (composer) English composer

John Nicholson Ireland was an English composer and teacher of music. The majority of his output consists of piano miniatures and of songs with piano. His best-known works include the short instrumental or orchestral work "The Holy Boy", a setting of the poem "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, a formerly much-played Piano Concerto, the hymn tune Love Unknown and the choral motet "Greater Love Hath No Man".

A performance of all three pieces takes about 9 minutes. They are: [2] [3]

  1. A Grecian Lad
  2. The Boy Bishop
  3. Puck's Birthday

A pastel is an artwork made using a colouring medium in the form of a stick which consists of powdered pigment and a binder; the stick too is called a pastel. Pastel drawings are often delicate in tone, which may explain Ireland's choice of title for this set of gentle impressionistic pieces.

Pastel art medium

A pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation. The color effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process.

Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music whose music focuses on suggestion and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture". "Impressionism" is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th-century French painting after Monet's Impression, Sunrise. Composers were labeled impressionists by analogy to the impressionist painters who use starkly contrasting colors, effect of light on an object, blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective, etc. to make the observer focus his attention on the overall impression.

The title A Grecian Lad may have been taken from A. E. Housman's poem "Look not in my eyes, for fear", No. XV in his 1896 collection A Shropshire Lad . It refers to the Greek legend of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection:

A. E. Housman English classical scholar and poet

Alfred Edward Housman, usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad. Lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form, the poems wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Their beauty, simplicity and distinctive imagery appealed strongly to Edwardian taste, and to many early 20th-century English composers both before and after the First World War. Through their song-settings, the poems became closely associated with that era, and with Shropshire itself.

A Shropshire Lad is a collection of sixty-three poems by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman, published in 1896. After a slow beginning, it rapidly grew in popularity, particularly among young readers. Composers began setting the poems to music less than ten years after their first appearance. Many parodies have also been written that satirise Housman's themes and stylistic characteristics.

Narcissus (mythology) hunter in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. According to Tzetzes, he was a Laconian hunter who loved everything beautiful. Narcissus was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him, causing some to commit suicide to prove their unrelenting devotion to his striking beauty. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one's physical appearance or public perception.

A Grecian lad, as I hear tell,
One that many loved in vain,
Looked into a forest well
And never looked away again.
There, when the turf in springtime flowers,
With downward eye and gazes sad,
Stands amid the glancing showers
A jonquil, not a Grecian lad.

The jonquil is a species of narcissus, Narcissus jonquilla .

<i>Narcissus jonquilla</i> species of plant

Narcissus jonquilla is a bulbous flowering plant, a species of Narcissus (daffodil) that is native to Spain and Portugal, but has now become naturalised in many other regions: France, Italy, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Madeira, British Columbia, Utah, Illinois, Ohio, and the southeastern United States from Texas to Maryland.

In the Middle Ages, it was a widespread custom to appoint a boy bishop, for example from among cathedral choristers, to parody the actual bishop on some particular church feast day.

Boy bishop

Boy bishop was a name given to a custom very widespread in the Middle Ages, whereby a boy was chosen, for example among cathedral choristers, to parody the real bishop, commonly on the feast of Holy Innocents. This custom was linked with others, such as that of the Feast of Fools and the Feast of Asses.

Puck is a mischievous supernatural creature in Celtic folklore. He is perhaps best known from the character Puck in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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  1. "List of works – T to Y". The John Ireland Trust. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  2. John Ireland: Pastels (3), for piano at AllMusic . Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  3. 2 Piano Pieces (Ireland, John) : Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)