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Symphonies 4 & 7

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 29, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Of the British composers to have emerged immediately before Elgar, the most significant were Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Stanford. Central to Stanford' achievement are the seven symphonies covering the greater part of his career. Although they rem
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 29, 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,076 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This CD is labeled 'Volume 1' and so we can assume that it is the first in a series that will comprise all the symphonies of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), in direct competition when completed with the fine set of the symphonies done by Vernon Handley and the Ulster Symphony Sir Charles Villiers Stanford: Symphonies 1-7 on the Chandos label. One advantage of the present Naxos recording and its anticipated companions is that they are a bit less costly and a good deal more recent than the Chandos set. Beyond that, though, this recording of Stanford's Fourth and Seventh Symphonies bodes well for the complete set to follow because these are beautifully performed and recorded by the Bournemouth Symphony under David Lloyd-Jones.

Stanford's Fourth Symphony is a large 40+ minute four-movement work that is brilliantly scored -- lightly and transparently, making it sound at times more like Mendelssohn than Brahms -- and cogently constructed. It is melodious, even folksy in spots, but has its moments -- especially in the slow movement -- of real depth of feeling. There is no question but what Stanford sounds more German than British, but of course that is not all bad. Yes, it is conservative for its time, but that makes little difference to a listener 120 years after its composition. The Seventh Symphony, Stanford's last, was written in 1911 and it is hard to imagine that it came into the world at almost precisely the same time as Elgar's Second Symphony or, even more, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. But it is a beautiful thing nonetheless.
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Format: Audio CD
I agree with just about everything the other reviewer, Scott Morrison, has written, but I'm giving this one star fewer than he. First, the positive elements in these performances: the orchestral playing seems to me very accomplished, and the Naxos engineers have largely done it justice. The strings sound wonderful, whether playing loud or soft, and the woodwinds, which feature prominently in both symphonies, but especially in the Fourth, are excellent. I could wish for a bit more "presence" in the sound -- a little more like Chandos provides for Vernon Handley -- but I can't really say that I can't hear what's there to be heard. So, credit too to David Lloyd-Jones, for eliciting that lovely sound. I agree with Morrison too that Mendelssohn seems to be the model here (whether consciously or not). The liner notes reference Brahms, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, but there's none of Schumann's emotional extravagance and none of the knotty denseness with which Brahms works out his material. And even Mendelssohn, in the last movement of the "Scottish," for example, gives us something more arousing than Stanford provides. I'm most taken by the Fourth Symphony, which I would stress despite my comments above is NOT boring. It's very well constructed and beautifully orchestrated -- in other words, a thoroughly professional job. But in the movements the themes are too alike in character to set up any drama in the development. The first movement of the Fourth starts with an appealing toe-tapping spring, and is followed by a lovely undulating theme, which, however, seems to grow out of the first than set up a strong contrast with it. The toe-tapping takes on a more dance-like character in the beginning of the fourth movement and leads to a lively conclusion.Read more ›
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