By 1913 much of Stanford’s expression of his Irish identity had adopted a more political mantle. A staunch Unionist and a follower of Craig and Carson, he opposed all thought of Home Rule for Ireland and vehemently supported Ulster’s cause. This is notably overt and deliberate in the Fourth ‘Ulster’ Rhapsody of 1914. By contrast, the Third Rhapsody, which features the cantabile tone of the solo cello, is a more reflective, restrained work, rather melancholy in demeanour. Structured in two parts, the first section, over twice the length of the second, is an introverted, yet deeply melodious, yearning threnody and is conceived very much as an extended ‘song’ in the way it develops the generous three-part phraseology of ‘The Fairy Queen’, a melody he most likely drew from Edward Bunting’s collection of Irish folk tunes of 1796 (and which was ascribed to Carolan, the early eighteenth-century Irish harper and composer). A livelier second section, analogous perhaps to the operatic ‘cavatina-cabaletta’ constructions Stanford knew so well from Italian opera, is a lively Irish jig based on the Munster tune ‘The Black Rogue’ (a double-jig which Stanford included in his edition of the Petrie Collection published between 1902 and 1905 with the title ‘Brigid of the fair hair’). Much of the jig is boisterous in character, yet a shorter, slower section returns nostalgically to the mood of the first section, even making brief reference to its melodic material, before the jig returns to form an energetic conclusion.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2011