The autograph full score of the Ballata and Ballabile Op 160 is dated 5 January 1918 and was written at Windsor where, as as result of the German bombing of London, Stanford spent much of the war to calm his nerves. It was composed for the young British cellist Beatrice Harrison, who was to become famous for her first performances of Delius’s Cello Sonata (31 October 1918) and Double Concerto (with her sister violinist, May, in 1920). The Ballata, a sonorous movement in the minor which recalls the pensive, folk-like material of Schumann’s ‘Im Legendenton’, exploits the cello’s singing capacity to the full, especially in the warm, central diatonic theme. The jaunty, elegant waltz of the opening idea of the Ballabile in triple time provides a gentle, euphonious foil to the Ballata, but it is contrasted with a broader secondary theme which, in the orchestra, evolves into an overtly romantic idiom, much more reminiscent of the early twentieth century. Stanford’s beautifully conceived sonata structure also has a delicious, classical poise that is coloured by delicately controlled eccentricities of modulation and changes of metre. The work was first performed in an arrangement by the composer for cello and piano by Harrison and Hamilton Harty (soon to become conductor of the Hallé Orchestra) at Wigmore Hall in London on 3 May 1919. This version, like the original orchestral version, remained unpublished, and a first performance of the orchestral version had to wait until 8 August 1988 when it was recorded in a BBC Northern Ireland studio performance by Raphael Wallfisch with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Lionel Friend. It was later broadcast by the BBC on Radio 3 on 26 January 1990.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2011