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Hyperion Records

CDA66820 - Parry & Stanford: Piano Concertos
CDA66820

Recording details: September 1995
Govan Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: November 1995
Total duration: 72 minutes 49 seconds

'Splendid, eloquent performances in clear, warm sound plus Jeremy Dibble's scholarly notes full of insights about the period of these compositions makes this an issue not to be missed. One is left dumbfounded that the [Parry] concerto could have lain neglected for so long' (Classic CD)

'I cannot conceive of a better performance of these two long-neglected concertos … [I] urge you to take a first step in the rehabilitation of two highly attractive piano concertos by acquiring this wonderful disc' (Fanfare, USA)

'Likeable works which are given performances of such conviction that one is thoroughly carried along' (The Scotsman)

'Sa virtuosité étourdissante, sa fougue, sa large palette sonore, son sens poétique confirment sa position étoile montante du piano britannique' (Diapason, France)

'Ein Muß für Liebhaber des abseitigen romantisch-schwelgenden Repertoires' (Fono Forum, Germany)

'The Stanford emerges as an absolute delight' (Piano, Germany)

'Dos conciertos magistralmente interpretados por Piers Lane' (CD Compact, Spain)

The Romantic Piano Concerto
Parry & Stanford: Piano Concertos
Allegro maestoso  [11'52]
Maestoso  [9'07]
Allegro vivace  [13'45]
Allegro comodo  [15'27]
Adagio molto  [13'05]

Parry was indebted to the grand Romantic tradition of the late nineteenth century, and his colourful and exuberant concerto probably lays claim to be the first British piece written in such a style worthy of comparison with contemporary continental models. It is a virtuoso work, extrovertly conceived for piano and undoubtedly written for the technical proficiency of Edward Dannreuther, one of the most important exponents of the grand concerto style in London during the 1870s and 1880s.

Stanford deliberately set out for his concerto to be ‘of a bright and butterfly nature’ to contrast with the usual epic tradition of the late nineteenth century. Much to the composer’s regret, the concerto was never published even though, as this recording bears out, it testifies to all that is distinctive, eloquent and craftsmanly in Stanford’s instrumental work. Having languished unperformed for a hundred years, these two concertos are here recorded for the first time.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
During the classical era the piano concerto had proved to be popular in London, particularly in association with names such as Dussek, Field and Cramer, who were especially active in the genre. Moreover, in the first half of the nineteenth century, the presence in London of figures such as Clementi and Moscheles together with visits by Mendelssohn, Thalberg, Liszt and Chopin, provided the capital with a broad representation of Europe’s finest piano virtuosi. Several British composers, Cipriani Potter, George Macfarren and, most notably, William Sterndale Bennett, produced piano concertos of their own, but after a particularly fertile period during the 1830s and early 1840s the genre attracted less attention. With the ascendancy of the grand virtuoso concerto in the 1840s and 1850s, allied with a shift to more progressive thinking within the provinces of tonality and structural thinking, the composition of concertos in Britain during the mid-century remained somewhat conservative in scope. This is borne out by the two concertos by Julius Benedict written in 1867 which were more stylistically indebted to the works of Field, Hummel and Weber, and also by Parry’s first (unfinished) attempt at a concerto in 1869 which clearly revealed the influence of Sterndale Bennett.

A change beckoned for the fortunes of the British concerto in December 1869 when the seventeen-year-old Frederic Cowen’s Piano Concerto in A minor was given at the St James’s Hall, a work which, along with his Symphony in C minor, gained the composer national recognition. Four years later, in January 1873, the young up-and-coming hope at Cambridge, Charles Villiers Stanford, completed a Concerto in B flat major. The inscription ‘20 minutes C P 4/4/73’ in the autograph manuscript may well have alluded to a brief play-through at the Crystal Palace in early April 1873, but a full concert performance did take place with the Cambridge University Musical Society on 3 June 1874 (in the same programme as the first important English revival of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri). Thereafter the work was shelved and, for the rest of the decade, the composer instead turned to the composition of string concertos for the violinist Guido Papini and the cellist Robert Haussmann.

Cowen’s and Stanford’s concertos were in many ways the most notable indigenous contributions to a genre which was appreciated in London principally through the models of Beethoven, Moscheles, Hummel, Chopin and Schumann. In March 1872, Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1 was given its first English performance at the Crystal Palace. A second performance at the Philharmonic in June 1873 confirmed its popularity and signalled a new phase of receptivity to the grand style of piano concerto in London, though it would not be until 1880, with Parry’s Piano Concerto in F sharp, that a native composer would attempt a work on a similarly imposing scale.

One of the most important exponents of the grand concerto style in London during the 1870s and 1880s was Edward Dannreuther. Born in Strasbourg in 1844, Dannreuther had grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father had established a piano manufacturing business. Aided and abetted by his mother, he ran away to Leipzig in 1859 to escape the prospect of a career in banking planned by his father. In Leipzig, where he studied with Moscheles, Hauptmann and E F Richter, he greatly distinguished himself and caught the eye of Henry Chorley in 1863 who had been sent abroad by Grove to ‘talent spot’ for the Crystal Palace concerts. Persuaded by Chorley, Dannreuther came to London where he gave the first complete English performance of Chopin’s Concerto in F minor in April 1863. The success of this performance instantaneously brought Dannreuther’s name before the public, and this was reinforced by a second appearance two weeks later in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4. Soon he found himself rubbing shoulders with some of the most celebrated names in London’s artistic and literary world such as Morris, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Browning and Matthew Arnold as well as cementing friendships with the many expatriate musicians who had settled in the capital, among them Ernst Pauer, Oscar Beringer, Karl Klindworth and Frits Hartvigson.

After his marriage in 1871, Dannreuther decided to settle permanently in England. This decision marked the beginning of Dannreuther’s reputation as a musical polymath of which his role as a virtuoso pianist formed only a part. During the early 1870s he was largely preoccupied with promoting Wagner’s music whether it was in the form of the London Wagner Society or in articles and books on the German master’s dramatic theory of opera. Nevertheless his career as a pianist continued to flourish as an executant of concerto works. In 1873 he gave two performances of Liszt’s Concerto No 1 in E flat in Liverpool and the Crystal Palace. At a Saturday Pop Concert on 18 April 1874 he gave the first English performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto (which was swiftly followed by a further performance at the Crystal Palace in July). In November the same year he was again at the Crystal Palace in another English first performance, this time of Liszt’s Concerto No 2 in A. Perhaps one of Dannreuther’s greatest triumphs as a concert virtuoso was his promotion of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor, which he played in London with Walter Bache in a two-piano arrangement during the first of his series of chamber concerts at his home at Orme Square, Bayswater, on 2 March 1876. Nine days later Dannreuther gave the concerto its first official English performance at the Crystal Palace, after which he wrote to Tchaikovsky suggesting improvements to the piano part. These were accepted by the composer and the changes were incorporated into the full score which was printed in 1879. Tchaikovsky’s Concerto was not Dannreuther’s last venture into new repertoire for piano and orchestra. In October 1877 he brought Scharwenka’s Concerto No 1 in B flat minor before the London public, a performance which made a deep impression on the twenty-nine-year-old Hubert Parry.

Parry, having given up his attempts to study with Brahms in Vienna, had begun to take lessons with Dannreuther at the end of 1873. Initially Dannreuther had agreed to embark on a course of advanced piano technique, but the two men soon developed a close working relationship through which Parry was able to draw extensively on Dannreuther’s wide knowledge of contemporary music for his compositions. Though only four years Parry’s senior, Dannreuther quickly assumed the role of mentor and encouraged his ‘pupil’ to explore the work of Liszt, Wagner and Brahms. Furthermore, the progressive nature of the programmes of chamber music at Orme Square, Dannreuther’s activities as a concert pianist and his involvement in the first performances of Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth (for which he gave Parry free tickets) together proved the essential catalyst in the expansion of Parry’s style and scope as a composer. By the end of 1877 Parry had produced a variety of works—the Großes Duo in E minor for two pianos, the Piano Sonata No 2, the Piano Trio No 1, a Concertstück for orchestra and an experimental Nonet for wind instruments. Both the Großes Duo and the Piano Trio were given at Orme Square, so providing a vital opportunity for the composer to hear his works performed by some of the best players in London. The atmosphere for instrumental composition was ideal and more flowed from Parry’s pen during the next three years. The Fantasie Sonata in B major for violin and piano (1878), the Piano Quartet (1879), the String Quartet No 3 (1878–1880) and the Cello Sonata (1880) were all written for Orme Square and duly performed there, as were later chamber works such as the String Quintet, Piano Trios Nos 2 and 3 and the Violin Sonata in D major.

The performances of his works at Orme Square together with his job as sub-editor for Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians did much to enhance Parry’s reputation in London’s musical circles. With the help of both Grove and Dannreuther he secured a performance of his overture Guillem de Cabestanh at the Crystal Palace under Manns in March 1879. It was not a success, owing partly to its being badly played and partly to Manns’s lack of sympathy for its Wagnerian language. But to give Manns his due, he did agree to conduct Parry’s other new work, a piano concerto, the following year.

Parry began to sketch the first movement of his Piano Concerto in F sharp major towards the end of 1878 and the rest of the work was composed between March and August of 1879. Dannreuther, who had been consulted regularly during the work’s composition, professed it to be Parry’s finest to date. His enthusiasm was such that not only was it programmed for the Crystal Palace in April 1880, but Richter was also happy to include the Concerto in one of his Festival Concerts in May.

The Crystal Palace premiere elicited some very positive reactions from friends and critics. Grove believed it to be thoroughly individual while the notoriously reactionary J W Davison thought it ‘very clever indeed’. Parry recorded his own thoughts in his diary after the concert:

The performance was on the whole good it seems. Dann[reuther] got nervous at the slow movement and came in a bar too soon at the beginning; but things were righted and he played it finely; the last movement went well and he got through the Cadenza in fine style … He was called several times after the performance and the applause was pretty lively—but I was most pleased by encouraging words from F[ranklin] Taylor and Hipkins and many other important sources which I valued.
Diary, 3 April 1880

The performance under Richter on 10 May was more successful and produced an effusive letter from Frederick Corder:

I must write and thank you … for demonstrating in your Concerto (I must consider last night as its first performance) that there are English composers who can write. I was impressed by the slow movement even at the Palace, and a proper rendering makes it perfectly charming. The last movement has great ‘go’, but if I may venture to find fault, the cadenza is a little long, though you have so much to bring into it that I’m sure I don't see how you could shorten it.

Parry appears to have been receptive to Corder’s advice. The cadenza of the Concerto was revised for a performance on 9 June 1884 with Dannreuther and Richter and even more extensively for Frederick Dawson who performed the work with Manns on 19 October 1895 as part of the series celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts. This may well have been its last public performance until now.

Indebted to the grand Romantic tradition of the late nineteenth century, Parry’s colourful and exuberant concerto probably lays claim to be the first British piece written in such a style worthy of comparison with contemporary continental models. It is a virtuoso work, extrovertly conceived for the piano and undoubtedly written with the brilliant technical proficiency of Dannreuther in mind. Stylistically it also reflects the first phase of Parry’s maturity (framed by the Großes Duo of 1876 and the First Symphony of 1882), a fertile and energetic period of composition full of melodic invention, harmonic imagination, bold ideas, forceful modulations and structural experimentation. This is certainly true of the first movement with its extraordinary destabilizing shift to G major early on in the piece, and, at the end of the development, the equally remarkable false reprise in D major (which links up neatly with the second-group tonality of D major in the exposition). Such an unorthodox, not to say radical matrix of tonalities, may well have been gleaned from the slow movement of Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata, Op 106, a work which Parry had studied at length under Dannreuther’s guidance. The subtly through-composed structure of the slow movement, which contrasts the gentle lyricism of the opening oboe solo with the brooding spaciousness of the piano, is also highly original and may well find its roots in the long melodic paragraphs of Liszt’s E flat Concerto. This movement is unquestionably the emotional core of the work and is one of Parry’s most deftly organized instrumental essays, anticipating the intricate formal involution of the Elegy for Brahms (1897) and the slow movements of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. The humorous finale of the Concerto is noteworthy for its jaunty main theme which continues to begin tangentially in the ‘wrong’ key (in D major!) before reverting to F sharp. This gives rise to a series of arresting ‘interrupted’ cadences throughout the movement; two of them, at the beginning of the recapitulation and at the end of the cadenza, are particularly dramatic in their impact. Thematically too the Concerto is richly endowed with strong ideas, notably the secondary material of the first movement and the long self-developing central melody of the slow movement. All this and the taxing ‘cyclic’ cadenza in the last movement, in which Parry incorporates both of the ideas of the first movement, make for a fascinating, exciting and historically important work which deserves greater exposure and recognition.

The only revival of Parry’s Piano Concerto, in October 1895, coincided with an explosion of interest in the genre in Britain. William Hurlstone, a piano pupil of Dannreuther and composition student of Stanford, produced his fine Piano Concerto in D in 1896 which he performed at the St James’s Hall. A year later Mackenzie’s ‘Scottish’ Concerto was given by Paderewski while Arthur Somervell, a pupil of both Parry and Stanford, composed his Symphonic Variations ‘Normandy’ for piano and orchestra. Heading this catalogue of works was Stanford’s own Piano Concerto (No 1) in G which was completed on 18 October 1894. The work was written for Leonard Borwick who had studied under Madame Schumann in Frankfurt. Borwick first appeared in London with a performance of Schumann’s Concerto at a Philharmonic Society concert on 8 May 1890. The following year he established an international reputation with a fine performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1 in Vienna under Richter. Thereafter he was in constant demand for concerto work and chamber music, appearing often with the Joachim quartet. Borwick was also well known as a sensitive accompanist giving numerous recitals with Harry Plunket Greene.

Stanford deliberately wanted his work to be, as he described in a letter to Francesco Berger, ‘of a bright and butterfly nature’ to contrast with the usual epic character of the late nineteenth-century concerto tradition. Unfortunately however, at the Concerto’s first performance at a Richter concert on 27 May 1895, it somewhat inappropriately followed Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony (the work’s first hearing at a Richter concert) and the Vorspiel and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (as well as ‘Elizabeth’s Greeting’ from Tannhäuser). The effect was, as Stanford explained later in another letter to Berger in January 1897, ‘like handing round a vol au vent immediately after two large helpings of Turkey and Corn Beef’. At the end of the year, the Concerto was given a more sympathetic hearing in a concert at the Singakademie in Berlin on 30 December. Stanford conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in a programme of British music in which the Concerto featured along with his Fifth Symphony, several of his folk-song arrangements in his own orchestrations, Parry’s Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy and Mackenzie’s Overture Britannia. The Philharmonic Society also programmed the work in 1897, again with Borwick as soloist and Stanford conducting. This was probably the occasion of its best performance, for afterwards Stanford was recalled to the stage three times, such was the enthusiasm of the audience.

Though Stanford’s Concerto consists of the traditional three movements, the conception of the work is of two larger movements interspersed by a shorter ‘intermezzo’. The first movement, a shared sonata structure between soloist and orchestra, is memorable for its delicate touch, elegant piano writing and fragile orchestration, a style reminiscent of Saint-Saëns who, perhaps significantly, had played his exhilarating Concert Fantasy ‘Africa’ for piano and orchestra under Stanford in Cambridge during the Jubilee celebrations of the Cambridge University Musical Society on 12 June 1893. As a perfect foil to the refined atmosphere of the first movement, the Adagio molto is more reflective in mood and more overtly gesticulative for the soloist. Stanford also brings to this movement a high degree of structural sophistication. Although the design is outwardly ternary, the generative process of the movement is effectively a series of variations in which the opening sonorous melody, announced by the strings, is continually reworked. For the finale Stanford skilfully combines capriciousness and humour (characterized by the initial oblique tonal progression from B flat major to G) with an affecting lyricism. The spacious coda, a haunting memory of the mellifluous second-group material, is Stanford at his best.

This Concerto was never published, much to the composer’s regret, though it is clear from the engraver’s marks in the autograph manuscript that Boosey, his principal publisher at that time, had intended to print the full score. With the success of his Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, published by Stainer and Bell in 1916 and widely played, his First Concerto was subsequently forgotten, even though, as this recording bears out, it testifies to all that is distinctive, eloquent and craftsmanly in Stanford's instrumental work.

Jeremy Dibble © 1995


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The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 54 – Somervell & Cowen
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67837 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 55 – Widor' (CDA67817)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 55 – Widor
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67817 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner' (CDA67843)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67843 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund' (CDA67828)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67828 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg' (CDA67915)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67915 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński' (CDA67958)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67958  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois' (CDA67931)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67931  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61' (CDA67950)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67950  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod' (CDA67975)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67975  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard' (CDA68043)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard
Buy by post £10.50 CDA68043  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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