STANFORD Piano Concerto. Violin Concerto
There’s no question what constitutes the main course here and what the hors d’oeuvres. Stanford’s D major Violin Concerto dates from his time in Leipzig and counted among its consultants none other than Joseph Joachim. Despite the shadows of Mendelssohn and Schumann, the score represents the Irish composer at his clipped, neat best, where restraint fuels both nobility and rapture.
The concerto’s 16 minute opening movement, framed by stuttering, tripping ideas from soloist and orchestra respectively, includes a fantasy development of novelty and charm. The 14 minute Intermezzo carries an atmosphere of reposeful fortitude, like a person sitting quietly yet thinking ferociously. After a rigorous cadenza that movement tumbles into a freewheeling Allegretto scherzando finale, a rare example of a composer from these islands putting a convincing stamp on an established central-European design. Sergey Levitin, best known as Covent Garden’s co concertmaster, revels in the music’s sturdy vigour and meets its technical challenges but his tone is neither particularly rich nor sweet.
The unnumbered Piano Concerto of 1873, a precursor to Stanford’s three mature examples, does appear to be a newcomer. As Jeremy Dibble’s rich but diplomatic booklet notes suggest, it’s less ambitious and far shorter than its concertante bedfellow here but interesting to hear despite its rather bloodless piano-writing and lack of sweeping momentum. Leon McCawley does his best with it. But, as in the Concert Overture of 1870, it’s in the small details – enchanting writing for winds and miniature adventures in tonality – that we sense a composer getting into his stride.
This review was amended on June 22, 2018 to correct a factual error.