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Hyperion Records

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On the Thames near Marlow by Henry Parker (1858-1930)
Taylor Gallery, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55434
Recording details: November 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2005
Total duration: 27 minutes 23 seconds

'A considerable discovery, in sum, which Piers Lane and the Vanbrugh Quartet do absolutely proud … the booklet essay by Jeremy Dibble is, as ever, a model of scholarly research and enthusiasm. Flawless sound and balance, too, from the experienced Keener/Eadon production crew' (Gramophone)

'There's little doubt that Piers Lane and the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, recorded here with superb immediacy, recognise its evident strengths, delivering a performance of white-hot intensity that will surely help to make the work far better known … altogether an outstanding release' (BBC Music Magazine)

'They couldn't ask for more eloquent advocacy than these splendid performances' (The Sunday Times)

'The Vanbrugh players and their Australian and Scots guests do an absolutely first-class job—the string playing is beautiful and committed, as is the pianism, and the recordings are superb. So are Jeremy Dibble's annotations. More please!' (The Strad)

'The performances are deeply committed, and the sound quality is exemplary in both tonal fidelity and balance' (Fanfare, USA)

String Quintet No 1 in F major, Op 85
21 April 1903; written for the Joachim Quartet; first performed by the Kruse Quartet and E Tomlinson at St James's Hall on 11 January 1904

Allegro  [8'27]
Andante  [6'57]
Allegretto  [11'59]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Stanford's two string quintets Opp 85 and 86 were intended for performance by Joachim and his quartet colleagues. The String Quintet No 1 in F major Op 85 was finished in Malvern (where Stanford often holidayed) on 21 April 1903. The publishing company of Houghton and Co made the work available in parts (a more commercially feasible option often practised by publishers) but the score remained in manuscript. A set was sent to Joachim who was informed by the composer that the String Quintet No 2 in C minor, Op 86, was also being written ‘as a little tribute’ to the violinist’s sixtieth visit to England. The String Quintet No 1 was given its premiere by the Kruse Quartet with E Tomlinson (second viola) at a Popular Concert at St James’s Hall on 11 January 1904. Parry, who was often critical of Stanford’s music, called it an ‘admirable piece of work’. This and the Second Quintet (which was performed by the Joachim Quartet, first in Berlin and later in London on 5 May 1904) were among the last of Stanford’s works to be heard at St James’s Hall before it was demolished in 1905 (much to Stanford’s chagrin) to make way for the Piccadilly Hotel.

Conceived in three movements (like Brahms’s String Quintet No 1, Op 88, in the same key), the First Quintet begins with a buoyant, flowing, exultant Allegro, full of warmth and rich scoring (here, as in his orchestral scoring, Stanford shows a felicity gleaned largely from Mendelssohn, which so clearly distinguishes his style from the heavier manner of Brahms). The Andante drew critical attention for its assimilation of Irish traditional music. Drawing its elaborate ornamental figurations from the old style of singing from the south-west of Ireland (now referred to as ‘sean nós’), the movement is a lament which demands a good deal of rubato and liberal treatment of the metre. ‘[Kruse] played it very “free”’, Stanford pointed out to Joachim ‘and I think it gained by it greatly.’ Stanford elected to merge the scherzo and finale into one larger superstructure whose construction was governed by an overarching scheme of a theme and variations. The third movement itself consists of a series of expanding variations that moves from F major through D minor to D major. This shift to D facilitates an unexpected reprise of the slow movement which is restated almost operatically (Stanford marks it ‘quasi recit.’) above a tremolando accompaniment. After the memory of the lament has receded, the first viola breaks into a much more extended sonata movement in 9/8 time (characteristic of the ‘hop jig’) whose primary material is based on the original theme of the Andante. This is the finale proper and functions cleverly in several ways: first, it provides a fitting conclusion to the larger variation scheme; secondly, it functions subtly as a recapitulation of the F–D dialectic established in the earlier variations; and thirdly, it affords a telling conclusion to the broader architectonic contrast of the first two movements (also in F major and D minor respectively), a relationship Stanford surely wished us to grasp through two further allusions to the lament theme of the second movement in the recapitulation and coda.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2005

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