Stanford Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 2
It is not perhaps surprising that the key, opening flourishes and other episodes in this splendid concerto recall Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2. Stanford had conducted its British premiere, with the composer as soloist, the year before he completed his own. If the second and third movements do not quite match the inspiration of the first, it has all the necessary ingredients for popular success – and if it was good enough for Harold Bauer (who gave the premiere) and Benno Moiseiwitsch (who championed it for years), then it should be good enough for the rest of us.
It was not heard at the BBC Proms until 2008, when Finghin Collins was the soloist. His is a vigorous and assertive reading, matched by the robust partnership of Kenneth Montgomery and his Irish players. Collins is forwardly placed in the vivid and vibrant sound picture – of necessity, for Stanford makes full use of the orchestra, especially the brass section. This is no rehearse-record performance but one that is breezily sure of itself. I shan’t, though, be dispensing with Malcolm Binns’s Lyrita recording, simply because of the vulnerability he brings to the first movement’s second subject. Call me an old softy but Binns, by some magical means, makes this one of the most moving passages of any Romantic concerto recording.
Collins’s “Down among the dead men” is, again, a superbly muscular, confident account, even more so than Margaret Fingerhut’s excellent 1989 Chandos disc, similarly paired with Stanford’s No 2 (Binns has two orchestral works for company). Warmly recommended.