Classical CD Reviews
STANFORD: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major; Clarinet Concerto, Op. 80 – Robert Plane, clarinet/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones – Naxos
Published on December 21, 2008
STANFORD: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major; Clarinet Concerto, Op. 80 – Robert Plane, clarinet/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones – Naxos 8.570356, 70:39 ****:
While the “British revival” in music has been ongoing since the 1970s or even prior, I have not been exposed to much by way of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), whose First Symphony (1876) has all the earmarks of the Dvorak style. Lovely, melodic expression, fluency of texture, folkish charm, and an easy way with part writing and counterpoint, all point to a thoroughly Europeanized, romantic ethos. I sense nothing of the parochial in this work, only a natural, assertive buoyancy I could have mistaken for late Mendelssohn or Schumann. The Scherzo is marked “in laendler tempo,” a concession, perhaps, to more sarcastic impulses in Bruckner and Mahler, though the bucolic affect and presence of two trios mark it as a scion of Schubert or Schumann. The prominent solo violin part (from leader Duncan Riddle) comes forth modestly here, but declaims itself to noble effect in the Andante tranquillo third movement. Violins and violas com sordino open the meditative proceedings, again all highly reminiscent of Dvorak’s temper. The last movement, for all its brass intricacies and somewhat Wagnerian impetus, owes debts to the Brahms penchant for classical order and repose, the contrapuntal finesse making itself unobtrusively apparent.
Like Brahms, Stanford knew clarinetist Richard Muehlfeld of the Meningen Orchestra, and meant his 1903 Clarinet Concerto for that gifted player. Muehlfeld never did perform it, but Charles Draper and later, Frederick Thurston, made the concerto their own. An appealing lyric piece, the Clarinet Concerto alternates vivacious figures with a sense of repose, and the last movement makes several allusions to the tumbler’s antics of Carl Maria von Weber by way of an Irish gig or two. Soloist Robert Plane, a student of Thea King, brandishes a lovely, mellifluous tone and plastic technique, quite charming. The recording, from June 2007, resounds ever so warmly, the clarinet, strings, and horns quite ripe, without any hint of professional slickness that might rob Stanford’s music of its spontaneous appeal.