Friday, September 10, 2010

Stanford : Fifth symphony and first Irish rhapsody

The Stanford festival continues here. First, remember to check the programme for Dublin's first actual Stanford festival at the website of the Stanford Society. And second, enjoy some more of his music.

I've chosen two of his best works for this second upload. The symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 56, "L'Allegro ed il Pensieroso" is based on Milton's poem, and a companionable piece of music. The opening movement changes boisterously in with apparently unstoppable good humour (and an orchestral depiction of 'laughter holding both his sides'). The second depicts the pleasures of rustic life (you can tell that because it starts with open fifths in the lower strings and then horn fifths' in the horns). The opening of the third movement is one of my favourite Stanford moments as melancholy sweeps majestically – and by no means depressingly - into the picture. The final movement returns to the energetic mould which seemed to come naturally to CVS, and introduces the organ – not in a pealing burst, in the manner of Saint-Saens, but rather stealthily and effectively. The closing pages of the score unfold from a single quiet A on the trumpet most magically.

This performance by the Ulster Orchestra is conducted by Tuomas Ollila-Hannikainen. While the Finn may not have seen Stanford before, the Ulster Orchestra are old hands, having played and recorded Stanford superbly for many years under the baton of Vernon (Tod) Handley.

And it is to Tod Handley that I turn for the stocking-filler: Stanford's first Irish Rhapsody, recorded for the BBC. Vintage Stanford this, with a particularly splendid tympany part (well, it's Irish). And that wonderful tune in the middle? Ah—sure everyone knows that wan, yer honour.

Stanford : Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 56, "L'Allegro ed il Pensieroso"

Irish Rhapsody No 1 in Dminor


  1. Thank you for this advocacy, and as I am anglo-Irish, well I am touched.

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