Stanford - Piano Trio No.2, Piano Quartet No.1
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Cat No: 8573388
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 5th January 2015
WorksPiano Quartet no.1 in F major, op.15
Piano Trio no.2 in G minor, op.73
ArtistsDavid Adams (viola)
Gould Piano Trio
One of Britain’s leading composers and educators of his day, Stanford considered chamber music an essential representation of ‘absolute music’. His mastery of extended instrumental forms truly comes of age in the First Piano Quartet, a work which breathes a confidence and fluency to rival Brahms. An adventurous harmonic palette distinguishes the Second Piano Trio, the Beethovenian pathos of its slow movement contrasting with the defiant turbulence of its cyclically related outer movements. The Gould Trio was ‘magnificently stylish’ (Gramophone) in their recording of Stanford’s First Piano Trio (8572452).
Our catalogue of Charles Villiers Stanford already includes four volumes of his complete symphonies, and our coverage of his excellent chamber music has already gone from strength to strength. The Gould Trio’s world première recording of his Third Piano Trio (8570416) was a Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’ and acclaimed as “absolutely first-class”, while the First Piano Trio and Second Piano Quartet (8572452) with David Adams was a MusicWeb International ‘Recording of the Year’, American Record Guide ‘Critic’s Choice’, and with Gramophone concluding that, with “top-notch production values throughout, this generously filled disc should be snapped up without delay”.
1Piano Trio no.2 in G minor, op.73 - I. Allegro moderato
2Piano Trio no.2 in G minor, op.73 - II. Andante
3Piano Trio no.2 in G minor, op.73 - III. Presto
4Piano Trio no.2 in G minor, op.73 - IV. Larghetto - Allegro con fuoco
5Piano Quartet no.1 in F major, op.15 - I. Allegro con brio
6Piano Quartet no.1 in F major, op.15 - II. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
7Piano Quartet no.1 in F major, op.15 - III. Poco adagio
8Piano Quartet no.1 in F major, op.15 - IV. Finale. Allegro con brio
Both works bear the hallmark of Stanford's years of study in Berlin and Leipzig in the mid-1870s, when he counted the great Joseph Joachim as his mentor. This is music of rich high-Romanticism in a classical vein, with the spirit of Brahms never far away.
The Piano Quartet (in which the Gould Trio is joined by David Adams on viola) is a work full of youthful passion, written when Stanford was in his mid-twenties but evidently already a composer of some accomplishment. There's a Mendelssohn-like freshness to the first movement, while the A minor Scherzo is a shade darker, its outer sections urgent, the C major trio section quietly reflective. The third movement is a lyrical Poco adagio with an ardent climax, realised here with a wonderful sensitivity to variety of timbres. The finale, a spirited Allegro con brio, is a tremendously assured piece of writing with hints of Mendelssohn again in evidence, culminating in a spirited coda. It's a truly delightful work, and this consistently perceptive performance is sure to win the music new friends.
Even finer is the Second Piano Trio of twenty years later. From the very outset the spirit of Brahms – a composer greatly revered by Stanford – hovers over this music, but with an Anglo-Irish lightness of touch. The impassioned opening Allegro moderato finds pianist Benjamin Frith, violinist Lucy Gould and cellist Alice Neary very much on their mettle, with a splendid unanimity of purpose. A noble and sumptuously harmonised Andante follows, violin and cello perfectly matched in their duetting, all three players sensitive to the underlying mood of deep introspection. The vibrant Scherzo makes for a lively contrast, with a broader trio section that contains some delicious modulations. The finale opens with a brooding, tonally elusive Larghetto introduction, before the main rondo theme bursts into life with its trademark crunchy harmonic twist. This is a marvellously fiery movement with lyrical episodes as effective foils, and the Goulds are at their most alert, resulting in a thrilling conclusion.
Recordings of Stanford's chamber music are still rare, and the Gould Trio's cycle now sweeps the board. It's music that withstands and indeed repays repeated listening, and essential listening both for those who want a more rounded picture of Stanford's output and for those with a taste for great chamber music-making. Exemplary recording and notes by British music authority Jeremy Dibble all add up to a real bargain.
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