Hyperion Records

Fantasy for clarinet and string quartet No 1 in G minor

'Romberg, Fuchs & Stanford: Clarinet Quintets' (CDH55076)
Romberg, Fuchs & Stanford: Clarinet Quintets
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55076  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Track 9 on CDH55076 [11'37] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Fantasy for clarinet and string quartet No 1 in G minor
In 1905, W W Cobbett, English amateur violinist, patron of music and lexicographer, established prizes for a new ‘fantasy’ string quartet. The First Prize was won by William Hurlstone in 1906, and the Second (for a piano trio) by Frank Bridge in 1907. Thereafter the prize was awarded to outstanding chamber works of any denomination provided they fulfilled the requirements of the ‘fantasy’, a name Cobbett chose (as a modern analogue of the Elizabethan viol fancies) in which a single movement includes a number of sections in different rhythms. It can also be thought of as a condensation of the three or four movements of a sonata into a single movement of moderate dimensions. The latter definition is itself a ‘condensation’ of the two or three pages devoted to this revival of the ‘fancy’ in Sir C V Stanford’s Musical Composition, a short but pithy treatise for students first published in 1912 and, for the most part, as well worth reading today as when it was written.

Stanford’s particular favouring of the ‘fantasy’ form bore fruit in the work of many of his pupils—not merely Hurlstone and Bridge but, in later years, Armstrong Gibbs, John Ireland and Herbert Howells, all recipients of Cobbett prizes for chamber works. Howells’s name is especially significant, for not only did he win the Cobbett Prize in 1918 for his Phantasy Quartet, but the previous year had completed another very successful chamber piece, the Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and strings (recorded by Thea King and the Britten Quartet on Helios CDH55105). Note (a) the ‘fantasy’, for it is one, though not specifically so called; and (b) the clarinet. Surely these both had a bearing on Stanford’s own two Fantasies for clarinet and string quartet composed only a few years later (No 1 in 1921, No 2 early 1922)? They are among his last works (he died in 1924) and were not only not published (a surprisingly large proportion of Stanford’s vast output remains unpublished, particularly his later chamber music) but actually lost sight of completely until quite recently.

Stanford first wrote for the clarinet in 1880 (Three Intermezzi for clarinet and piano). There followed the Clarinet Concerto in 1902 (written for, but never performed by, the legendary dedicatee of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, Richard Mühlfeld). Around 1912 Stanford produced his Op 129 Sonata for clarinet (or viola) and piano; and finally the Fantasies, which Thea King calls ‘prime Stanford’. Yes, they are. Rarely, in him, were the twin claims of Irish fantasy (using the term in another, less specific, sense!) and the Austro-German tradition of craftsmanship so warmly and happily reconciled.

from notes by Christopher Palmer © 1992

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDH55076 track 9
Recording date
12 January 1991
Recording venue
St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Romberg, Fuchs & Stanford: Clarinet Quintets (CDA66479)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: April 1992
    Deletion date: May 2001
    Superseded by CDH55076
  2. Romberg, Fuchs & Stanford: Clarinet Quintets (CDH55076)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: May 2001
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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