Stanford: Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Quartet No. 1

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WORKS: Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Quartet No. 1
PERFORMER: Gould Piano Trio; David Adams (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573388


Charles Villiers Stanford tended to hobble his strikingly original talent, derived from his Irish birth and background, with a relentlessly fluent devotion to the example of Brahms and Dvoπák. While both works recorded here are products of Stanford the euro-conformist, the good news is that they’re very far from disappointing (though I caught myself yearning, in vain, for a snatch of Irish roguishness now and again).

The relative smallness of piano trio repertory is partly due to the medium’s balance difficulties involving one high and one low stringed instrument (violin and cello) with the differently-toned piano operating between them. Such is Stanford’s skill in the Piano Trio No. 2 that the problem seems not to exist: its three performers clearly revel in the music’s transparency and freedom, Benjamin Frith’s piano-playing a feast of tonal loveliness and supple phrasing. In the Piano Quartet No. 1 the gorgeous, nut-brown sonority of David Adams’s viola-playing is in the same exceptional class as his colleagues. Though an earlier and less impressive work than the Trio, it springs some memorable surprises, such as the chorale-like idea that opens the first movement’s development section.


Malcolm Hayes