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Track(s) taken from CDA66291

Serenade in F major 'Nonet', Op 95


Recording details: November 1987
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: July 1989
Total duration: 28 minutes 41 seconds


'Hyperion again! For sheer enterprise, a disc comprising nonets by Parry and Stanford takes some beating … it almost goes without saying that the recording is first class, and so are the performances' (Gramophone)
The instrumental combination of Stanford’s Nonet, Op 95, is less unusual than Parry’s in that it conforms to the more conventional nineteenth-century scoring of wind and strings, as deployed by Spohr, Onslow and Rheinberger. Stanford differs slightly, however, in dispensing with the oboe and adding a second violin. The work was written in London in June and July 1905, the year in which Stanford had been engaged in the composition of his Sixth Symphony, Op 94, ‘In memoriam G F Watts’, as well as enjoying some international success with his Requiem, Op 63, in Düsseldorf.

The Nonet was played at a Broadwood Concert in The Aeolian Hall in London on 25 January, 1906, and was received with great favour. The critic of The Times was full of praise the following day in drawing attention to the work’s spontaneity, charm, and classical purity of structure. Parry, who was privately Stanford’s severest critic, also heard it and was similarly impressed. Later he heard it again in March 1913 played by a student ensemble at the Royal College of Music when he described it as ‘a nice specimen of his [Stanford’s] work’.

The light mood and texture of the Nonet (hence its title ‘Serenade‘) provides refreshing relief to the Brahmsian earnestness essayed in many of Stanford’s chamber works, notably the Cello Sonata in D minor (1893) and the Piano Trio No 2 in G minor (1899). Nevertheless, he symphonic nature of its composition clearly betrays Stanford’s Teutonic allegiance in the province of instrumental music – a feature especially apparent in the first movement. The Scherzo in A minor is perhaps the most original movement as the first part of the ternary structure is a set of highly inventive variations that vary in tempo, metre and phraseology. Stanford also derives the material of his trio from the Scherzo theme which, besides providing much needed tonal contrast, effectively serves as a further, more protracted variation. The slow movement has a vein of nostalgia evoked by the diatonic simplicity of the clarinet’s ‘vocal’ melody. Here we are reminded of similar gestures in Stanford’s Irish Rhapsodies, a connection reinforced by the more mystical and imaginatively orchestrated central idea. A humourous, lopsided, eleven-bar theme dominates the lighthearted finale which, in its coda, alludes wittily to material from previous movements.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1989

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