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Hyperion Records

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Harvesting Scene by Howard Gull Stormont (active 1884-1923)
Private Collection
Track(s) taken from CDH55362
Recording details: Various dates
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Various producers
Engineered by Various engineers
Release date: June 1999
Total duration: 21 minutes 27 seconds

'An exemplary alliance. Not only is their playing consummately refined and joyously articulate, they bring plenty of panache and dedication to this immensely attractive repertoire. The engineering is vividly truthful and Jeremy Dibble's booklet essay is a masterclass in itself. Recommended without reservation' (Gramophone)

'Music of great charm. Fine advocates of Stanford's musical riches' (BBC Music Magazine)

Five Characteristic Pieces, Op 93
composer
completed on 1 February 1905

Capriccio  [4'06]
In a gondola  [5'06]
Arabesques  [3'16]
L'Envoi  [4'29]

Introduction
The Five Characteristic Pieces for violin and piano, Op 93, were completed on 1 February 1905 and were, one assumes, written for the same lucrative market as the Irish Fantasies. These pieces, however, exhibit a greater technical sophistication in terms of design which belies their miniature conception. The ‘Cavatina and Scherzino’ is effectively a reverse form of the ‘Scherzo and Trio’ model in that it is the lyrical episodes that flank a central scherzo rather than the usual converse arrangement. For the ‘Cavatina’, Stanford relies on a three-part texture: a self-developing melody in the violin (deftly avoiding regular periodicity with its three-bar phrases), a gently undulating quaver movement in the right hand of the piano, and a simple interjecting bass line to punctuate each phrase. The euphony of this section is broken by the ‘Scherzino’ in the mediant minor, whose unsettling rhythmical agitation is calmed only by a more voluptuous restatement of the opening paragraph. After the F major of the ‘Cavatina’, the central three movements, ‘Capriccio’, ‘In a gondola’ and ‘Arabesques’ are all set in minor keys. The first of them, the ‘Capriccio’, takes up the A minor of the ‘Scherzino’ but this time in a delicious Mendelssohnian style of ‘will o’ the wisp’ in the true manner of a scherzo. Mendelssohn’s idiom of the ‘song without words’ (in particular the movements entitled ‘Gondellied’ of Opp 19, 30, 38 and 62) inhabits ‘In a gondola’, cast in a dolorous D minor. Like the ‘Capriccio’ before it, the movement depends on the fluctuation of minor and major modes to delineate its tripartite structure, though for its conclusion Stanford gives us a sweet memory of the central episode in D major, replete with enchanting Lydian inflections and the most delicate of conclusions on the violin’s natural harmonics. A further step flatwards, to G minor, brings us to another scherzo. ‘Arabesques’, so named because of its elaborate curvilinear melody, is a miniature sonata and shows considerable inventiveness in the way both original and augmented forms of the opening material are deployed in an engaging dialogue between violin and piano. As a postscript to the previous four pieces, ‘L’Envoi’ provides the most intimate of glimpses into a more introspective world. There are many skilful touches about this enchanting piece. Stanford’s return to the major (after three pieces in the minor) provides a telling contrast, as does the choice of A major which serves as effective complement to the A minor of the ‘Scherzino’ and ‘Capriccio’. But perhaps most subtle is the tranquil secondary material in B major which seems to hint at the ‘Cavatina’ in the piano figuration. This remains only a vague allusion, but in the final bars the opening strains of the ‘Cavatina’ do indeed materialize, bringing us full circle. This time, however, its song-like innocence is transformed into one of melancholy as its two melodic phrases are answered by the violin’s tearful motif. Such a gesture suggests perhaps that throughout the five pieces as a whole we have been witness to an unwritten background narrative, too personal to intimate.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble 1999

Other albums featuring this work
'Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2013' (HYP201303)
Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2013
HYP201303  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available
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