Stanford: Clarinet Sonata

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Stanford
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Stanford
WORKS: Clarinet Sonata; Piano Trio No. 3; Three Intermezzi; Two Fantasies
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet), Mia Cooper (violin), David Adams (viola), Gould Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570416

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Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was generous towards the clarinet, writing not only a Concerto but also three early Intermezzi and a much later Sonata with piano, and, very late in life, two Fantasies with string quartet.

The language is essentially that of his model Brahms – though, as the notes point out, the 1879 Intermezzi predate Brahms’s clarinet music by some years. But the middle movement of the Sonata draws on Stanford’s Irish roots in an effective ‘Caoine’, or lament; and the Fantasies ingeniously wrap several movements into a continuous whole.

There’s some fine music here, and Robert Plane is a persuasive advocate. Very occasionally his straight tone reveals problems of intonation with the unyielding piano, and in the Sonata the piano sometimes lacks weight. But in the Fantasies the blend and rapport with the strings is excellent.

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Clarinet fans will probably already have the late Thea King’s Hyperion recordings of the Sonata and the Fantasies, and can be well content with them. But Stanford enthusiasts will welcome the bonus of his third and last Piano Trio: Brahmsian again and here given a clear recording and expert performance. Anthony Burton