Stanford: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 and 2
The contents of this serious exercise in completism (with numerous first recordings) are attractive enough to appeal well beyond the world of the specialist – a situation happily enhanced by the qualities of Alberto Bologni’s violin-playing. Besides his sure tuning and technical precision, what impresses above all is how Bologni’s style and sound so naturally suit the unusual mix of requirements in Stanford’s music. On the one hand there is the rather self-conscious concert-hall manner of the two Violin Sonatas – the first a Beethoven clone by a young composer, the second an impressively expansive, Brahms-suffused statement by the mature musician. And there are also the shoals of arrangements of Irish tunes – some of them straight, others more extended and developed – which need a different approach.
A more lustrous-toned player might have been more imposing in the two Sonatas; but that same lustrousness then wouldn’t suit the off-the-wall character of the Irish works, which Bologni captures with a lovely naturalness and ease (try the unaccompanied opening of the ‘Reel’ from Six Irish Sketches, Op. 153). Other specially fine interpretations are the Five Bagatelles in Valse-Form – the ageing Stanford’s intriguing cross-hatching of salon and concert-hall styles – and the Three Irish Airs of 1922-3, one of whose tunes, ‘The Green Woods of Truigha’, is outstandingly beautiful. Christopher Howell’s accompaniments throughout are a model of sage expertise, as are his detailed and engaging booklet notes.