Charles Villiers Stanford: Cello Sonata No. 1; Cello Sonata No. 2; Ballata

Alison Kelly

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Charles Villiers Stanford: Cello Sonata No. 1; Cello Sonata No. 2; Ballata Review

by Blair Sanderson

Already exposed to chamber music in his youth in Dublin, Charles Villiers Stanford took even greater interest in it at Cambridge, where he and his friends regularly gathered to perform the established repertoire. As a result of this intimate involvement, Stanford tried his hand at writing his first work for cello and piano, the Sonata No. 1 in A major. This 1877 sonata seems unusually assured for a student work, yet its rhetoric reflects the influence of Mendelssohn and Brahms, and for all its earnestness, is not yet Stanfordian. The Cello Sonata No. 2 in D minor from 1889 is more developed in its independent parts and points toward Stanford's mature style, with references to Celtic folk music and the modal inflections that were to become characteristic of his later works. The Ballata, from 1918, was originally orchestrated, but Stanford transcribed it for cello and piano for a performance at Wigmore Hall, the only version heard in his lifetime. Filled with pensive Irish lyricism, the Ballata reflects the painful isolation and nostalgia Stanford felt as his fame decreased after World War I. Cellist Alison Moncrieff Kelly and pianist Christopher Howell perform these works with sensitivity and rich, late-Romantic color, and Meridian's recording is clear and focused.

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