Stanford: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Five Characteristic Pieces, Op. 93; Caoine, Op. 54/1

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COMPOSERS: Stanford
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Five Characteristic Pieces, Op. 93; Caoine, Op. 54/1
PERFORMER: Paul Barritt (violin), Catherine Edwards (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67024
Violinist Paul Barritt brings Stanford’s rarely performed chamber music into the spotlight with this disc of works for violin and piano. Its neglect seems unfair: this is music of great charm, Stanford’s gift for the most fluid lyricism touched by the wistfulness of the folksongs of his native Ireland.

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Barritt’s honeyed tone and sumptuous vibrato are well-suited to the lyrical ebb and flow of the two violin sonatas. The First was written early in Stanford’s career, and its songful, reflective quality points the way to the more complex emotions of the Second, the shadow of Brahms revealed in the tempestuous sweep of its melodies and frequent syncopations. Barritt’s delicacy of touch is echoed in pianist Catherine Edwards’s supreme transparency of texture , both players excelling in the sober Adagio which moves between an exquisite economy of gesture to more sorrowful, darker hues.

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The miniatures – Caoine, one of Stanford’s Six Irish Fantasies and the Five Characteristic Pieces – are more straightforward in conception but no less appealing. The vein of Irish folk music runs close to the surface in Caoine in its soulful, plaintive cries, which Barritt imbues with great warmth. The Characteristic Pieces are vividly detailed, from the lithe Capriccio to the introspective L’envoi, and here, as throughout the disc, Barritt and Edwards prove themselves fine advocates of Stanford’s musical riches. Catherine Nelson