Stanford: Piano Quartet No. 1 in F, Op. 15; Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 35

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COMPOSERS: Stanford
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Piano Quartet No. 1 in F, Op. 15; Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 35
PERFORMER: Pirasti Trio; Philip Dukes (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1056
The Stanford CD discography steadily enlarges. This affords considerable satisfaction to admirers of a long-neglected composer whose best music shows itself at once unfailingly attractive, well schooled and distinctive in personality. Irish-born, German-trained and long (at London’s Royal College of Music) the doyen of British composition teachers, he was a conservative neither insular in vision nor lacking in adventurous spirit.

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‘Brahmsian’ is the adjective that recurs most often in the Stanford literature. While it can be aptly applied to both these works, the 1889 C major Piano Trio in particular, the muscular command of form does not inhibit an abundance of fluent lyricism – always pleasingly fresh and personal. The earlier Piano Quartet (1879) pours out more spontaneously; the trio is more consciously ‘finished’ in its technical mastery.

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Both works come across as real chamber music, well worth getting to know. In these civilised, finely paced readings they seem especially so: the violin tone occasionally grows peaky above the stave, but the assured, unified group style makes this flaw of small account. ASV has already issued the Pirasti’s acclaimed account of Stanford’s Second Piano Trio (alongside works by Bax and Holst). This all-Stanford disc is a worthy successor. Max Loppert