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CD Review

Charles Villiers Stanford

  • Piano Quintet in D minor, Op. 25
  • String Quintet #1 in F Major, Op. 85
Piers Lane, piano
Garth Knox, viola
RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet
Hyperion CDA67505 65m DDD
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After the very successful first release earlier this year of Stanford's rather neglected chamber works (String Quartets #1 and 2) here is the second volume in this commendable series.

Although Stanford's large corpus of works includes pieces in practically every musical genre, he always harboured a strong predilection for chamber music in particular, and his substantial output in this regard is not only brilliant, but often passionate and arresting.

His masterful Piano Quartet dates from 1886, and is probably his grandest chamber work. Influenced by the great Schumann and Brahms Quintets, the composer takes the listener through a journey of sadness and melancholy (Mvts. 1 and 2) to a world of boundless joy and bliss (movements 3 and 4).

The String Quintet #1 was completed in April 1903 and is written in three movements (like the Brahms, Op. 88). The work comprises a happy 'allegro' and an exquisite, variation-like allegretto full of contrasts and allusions to the first two movements. In between is a lamentable 'andante' of great beauty which draws its material from the old singing style of South-West Ireland. Parry thought this to be 'an admirable piece of work'.

Extensive annotation by Jeremy Dibble certainly makes the best case for this CD, these enchanting compositions surely deserve to be much more frequently performed and played.

Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech