Nicholas Braithwaite

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford: Piano Concerto No. 3; Cello Concerto

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While Charles Villiers Stanford's reputation as teacher of such important composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, John Ireland, and Frank Bridge has kept his name alive, his own music fell out of fashion in the decades after his death in 1924; he is most remembered for his sacred works, including a Stabat Mater, music for Anglican services, and the popular Easter anthem, Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem. Yet a small revival of his secular music began in the 1980s and brought his orchestral works much needed attention, particularly the six Irish Rhapsodies, the seven symphonies, the Clarinet Concerto, and the Piano Concerto No. 2. Less familiar are the youthful Cello Concerto in D minor and the late Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major; this 2007 release from Lyrita goes far in reviving these obscure works, and reveals Stanford to be a lot more interesting than his status as an academic or church composer might suggest. The Cello Concerto is quite reminiscent of Dvorák and flows with an arching lyricism that is comparable to Brahms, an overwhelming influence on Stanford in the 1880s. The Piano Concerto No. 3 (orchestrated by Geoffrey Bush from an extant two-piano score) is a mature work from 1919 that has much of Stanford's characteristic optimism and even bombast, but it is tinged with passages of yearning and melancholy that evoke Chopin and the Romanticism of an age long past. The performances by cellist Alexander Baillie (who supplied his own cadenza), pianist Malcolm Binns, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite, are generous in spirit and rich in feeling, though the recordings are a little muted in sonority and overly blended in color, producing a slightly indistinct quality to both selections.

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