Stanford Choral and Orchestral Works

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

This disc highlights the heroic side of Charles Villiers Stanford, an expressive perspective at which he was only partially successful. His Overture in the style of a tragedy is about as tepid and ineffective as it gets–yet another half-hearted attempt to meld emotional intensity to traditional forms, and failing at both. Verdun: Solemn March and Heroic Epilogue is an orchestral arrangement of Stanford’s Organ Sonata No. 2. The scoring is skillful, and the opening march is vastly more convincing than the heroic bits. You can’t help but get a sense that Stanford simply didn’t have the necessary fire in his belly (despite an often choleric temperament) to pull off this sort of thing.

A Welcome March is agreeably ceremonial, and A Song of Agincourt contains a healthy selection of attractive tunes. Of all the “heroic” pieces in this collection, it’s easily the most successful. The largest work here, however, is Fairy Day, a triptych of three choral songs beautifully sung by the members of Codetta. This is Stanford at his best: memorable tunes, gossamer textures–full of atmosphere, enchantment, and a keen attention to the text. Yes, it sounds like updated Mendelssohn, but first-class Mendelssohn. The work is a real find, even if the magical spell that it casts only highlights just how unsuited Stanford was to the more strenuous task that the other works on this program demand.

There’s no question, though, that these performances present all of the music in a positive light. Howard Shelley makes a thoroughly committed advocate, Stanford scholar Jeremy Dibble contributes superbly written notes, and Hyperion’s engineers capture it all in vivid, lifelike sonics. If anyone is at fault for my lack of enthusiasm, it’s the composer. Fairy Day, though, is worth the price of the disc. It’s a real find.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

    Overture in the style of a tragedy; Verdun: Solemn March and Heroic Epilogue; A Welcome March; Fairy Day; A Song of Agincourt

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