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Cello Concerto in D minor
short score completed in 20 October 1879; full score completed in late August 1880; written for Robert Hausmann

'Stanford: Cello Concertos' (CDA67859)
Stanford: Cello Concertos
Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Molto adagio
Movement 3: Allegretto non troppo

Cello Concerto in D minor
After leaving Dublin in 1870, Stanford entered Queens’ College, Cambridge as organ scholar where he also read Classics. Migrating to Trinity College in 1873, where he remained organist until 1892, he was given generous support by the Seniority (nowadays the College Council) of the college to study in Germany between July and December of 1874, 1875 and 1876, spending the first two periods in Leipzig under Karl Reinecke and the final one in Berlin with Friedrich Kiel, all the time being advised by his lifelong mentor, Joachim. After returning to Cambridge in January 1877, full of enthusiasm and creative energy (he was already the author of a symphony, a violin concerto, choral works and songs), he completed the Cello Sonata Op 9, written and dedicated to the cellist Robert Hausmann. Stanford probably first met Hausmann at the Lower Rhine Festival in 1873 at the same time as he met Brahms. A former pupil at the Berlin Musikhochschule, Hausmann studied with the Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti before embarking on a professional career in the early 1870s with the Graf-Hochberg Quartet. After joining the staff of the Berlin Musikhochschule he became a member of Joachim’s Quartet in 1878 and remained part of this ensemble until Joachim’s death in 1907 (though while the Quartet played in London, the position of cellist was taken by Piatti). Also, like Joachim, he was closely associated with the music of Brahms, whose Cello Sonata No 2 Op 99 was written for him, and he played in the premieres of the Double Concerto Op 102 and Clarinet Trio Op 114.

Hausmann made his debut in London on 30 April 1877 and, the following day, gave the first performance with Stanford of the Irishman’s Cello Sonata at one of Hermann Franke’s chamber concerts at the Royal Academy of Music. With Hausmann’s promotion of the Cello Sonata both in Britain and Europe—the first significant British work in this genre—Stanford decided to compose the Cello Concerto in D minor (also without opus number) for him which, barring Sullivan’s more lightweight concerto of 1866, was also a major landmark in the repertoire of British cello music. After completion in short score on 20 October 1879 it was shown to Hausmann for suggestions and improvements. It was then subsequently finished in full score while Stanford was on holiday in Caernarvon, Wales, in late August 1880. The work then appears to have remained unperformed except for the slow movement which Stanford and Hausmann played at a chamber concert for the Cambridge University Musical Society on 13 March 1884.

The first movement of the concerto essays a shared version of sonata form, a model essentially adopted by Mendelssohn where vestiges of the older classical ritornello procedure are also in evidence, notably in the orchestral tutti of the exposition after the solo opening, and in the central orchestral ritornello. Indeed, the opening crescendo which leads to the yearning cello theme is decidedly reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G minor. The second subject is a highly lyrical affair which appropriately exploits the singing tone of the cello besides providing an emotional contrast to the more melancholy hue of the first subject. After the central orchestral tutti, Stanford breaks the mould by introducing, quite unconventionally, a new, tender thematic episode in D flat major during the development. Recovery from this radical tonal departure is, by necessity, more turbulent as D minor is restored for the recapitulation where all three thematic strands are restated.

The shorter slow movement in B flat major, marked Molto adagio, is essentially an ‘Intermezzo’ in song form (ABA), more in the tradition of Schumann. It features an extended, soulful melody which, at its close, is characterized by some remarkably original scoring for strummed pizzicato strings and sustained high flutes (an idea which was to surface again in the slow movement of his late unpublished Violin Concerto No 2 Op 162). A central paragraph, more passionate in gesture, is marked ‘quasi recitative’ for the soloist and is more operatic in its rhythmically freer delivery and tremolando accompaniment.

For the rondo-sonata finale, Stanford provides an interesting and unusual introduction which, besides furnishing a thematic anticipation of the principal rondo theme, effectively functions as a transition from B flat to D major. This tangential passage adds to the light-hearted nature of Stanford’s rondo theme and plays an important role in its eccentric recurrences throughout the movement. It is also preludial to a second subject of much more athletic passagework where we become aware of Hausmann’s virtuoso qualities. A second episode makes use of the main melody of the slow movement. This cyclic occurrence acts as a spur to further developmental treatment of the rondo material before Stanford embarks on a recapitulation featuring all three ideas.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2011

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67859 track 2
Molto adagio
Recording date
7 January 2011
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Hyperion usage
  1. Stanford: Cello Concertos (CDA67859)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: October 2011
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