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Stanford: Violin Concerto, Suite

Dan Davis

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

Hyperion has brought together two fetching, large-scale pieces by Charles Villiers Stanford for its “The Romantic Violin” series. Both are mature works, written in 1888 and 1899 during Stanford’s “high noon”, when the Cambridge-based Irishman was winning acclaim at home and abroad as a leading British composer. The earlier Suite was written for his mentor, the great German violinist Joseph Joachim. It’s a piece of considerable beauty, both an homage to past musical styles and a tune-filled example of highbrow populism that repays multiple hearings. It begins with a nod to Bach’s solo violin music, and the titles of some movements (as well as their music)–such as Allemande and Tambourine–continue the Baroque-style tribute. Though longish (just shy of half-an-hour), it never overstays its welcome.

The Violin Concerto, though, is more ambitious. At 38 minutes it clearly strives for importance, but the striving never becomes pretentious; rather it’s the inevitable result of profligate melodic riches and their intricate working out. The concerto opens with quietly whirling winds and plucked strings reminiscent of airy Mendelssohnian fairy-music, over which the violin enters with lyric expansiveness. Throughout, interest is maintained not only by the violin’s lyricism (Stanford doesn’t favor flashy super-virtuoso pyrotechnics) but also by the varied orchestration. The central Adagio, somber in nature, features a melody for the violin that makes you want to push the repeat button. The Irish-tinged finale is rousing in a gentlemanly way (those Victorian composers never pushed their Romanticism over the top). Anthony Marwood is a fine soloist in both pieces, playing with security, warm tone, and fine-honed lyricism, and Martyn Brabbins and his Scottish band provide excellent support. Top-drawer sound and annotations clinch the recommendation.

Recording Details:

CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD - Suite for Violin & Orchestra Op. 32; Violin Concerto in D major Op. 74

  • Record Label: Hyperion - 67208
  • Medium: CD

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