String Quintets Nos 1 & 2; Intermezzi for Cello and Piano, Op. 13
Krysia Osostowicz, Ralph de Souza (violin), Yuko Inoue, Garfield Jackson (viola), Richard Jenkinson (cello), Benjamin Frith (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD0623 66:45 mins
Given the current state of the planet, there are bigger things to keep us awake than worrying over the failure of Stanford’s publisher in 1903 to issue his String Quintet No. 2, second in a pair of works written with Brahms’s favourite violinist, Joseph Joachim, in mind. Yet listening to this first recording, the listener can’t but regret the lost century this quintet has spent sitting in the shadows. As with its stablemate, Brahms’s ghost often hovers, but within a framework firmly stamped by structural subtleties and changing moods that are quite Stanford’s own.
No. 2 is a very satisfying work, quite on a par with the equally dextrous No. 1, where Mendelssohn’s ghost also takes a bow before Stanford’s Irish streak comes to the fore in a striking slow movement lament. The pooled members of the Dante and Endellion Quartets navigate the music with plenty of passion and some old-style expressive freedom, qualities dampened a bit by the recording’s slightly recessed church acoustic. It’s almost as if the players were trapped inside a glass bottle. Happily, cellist Richard Jenkinson and pianist Benjamin Frith have more room to move in the lively and characterful Intermezzi, smaller examples of Stanford’s pleasant art.