Vanbrugh Quartet / Piers Lane

Stanford: String Quartet No. 1; Piano Quintet

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AllMusic Review by James Leonard

To say that Charles Villiers Stanford modeled his Piano Quintet of 1886 and his String Quintet of 1903 on Brahms is to state the obvious. From the layout of the movements to the details of the scoring, from the drive of the rhythms to the strength of the themes, Stanford clearly took Brahms as a model. Besides, who else was he supposed to model them on? In the second half of the nineteenth century, Brahms was the acknowledged master of chamber music forms and any composer with any ambition from Stanford to Sibelius to Taneyev to Dohnányi was going to wind up writing in Brahms' idiom. More significant is Stanford's success in writing in Brahms' idiom. As embodied in these performances by pianist Piers Lane with the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, Stanford's Piano Quintet and String Quintet don't sound like pastiches or parodies, but rather as full-fledged works in their own right that speak the Brahmsian idiom with energy, fluency, and intensity. Lane and the Vanbrugh Quartet clearly believe in the value of the music and their performances are polished, passionate, and ultimately wholly persuasive. While listeners who don't already know Brahms' own Piano Quintet or String Quintet are urged to hear them as soon as possible, listeners who already know those works or listeners who already know Stanford's symphonies and are looking for something similar are urged to hear this disc as soon as possible. Hyperion's sound is richly detailed and lushly rounded.

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