Parry/Stanford

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Parry/Stanford
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Concerto in F sharp; Piano Concerto No. 1 in G
PERFORMER: Piers Lane (piano); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66820 DDD
When two piano concertos have remained unplayed for a century, it is difficult to overestimate the amount of effort that goes into preparing a performance. Admittedly the Parry has enjoyed occasional outings since its premiere in 1880, but Stanford’s First Concerto all but vanished after three initial performances in 1895. With the original scores either lost or in chaotic condition, new editions had to be prepared for each piece, about eight months’ work before the conductor had even set eyes on the music. And then there is the challenge of trying to get a decent interpretation in the complete absence of the comforting safety-net of any performing tradition.

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All this is grist to the mill of Hyperion’s ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series (this is Vol. 12), now well-practised in the art of exhuming forgotten wonders. But it is welcome to see the series focus, for the first time, on home ground with two composers at the heart of the so-called ‘English musical renaissance’ in the late 19th century.

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These concertos are a delight, sharing a lightness of touch and delicacy of feeling, but otherwise clearly differentiated, the Parry jaunty and virtuosic and the Stanford eloquent and seamless. Treading confidently on virgin territory, orchestra and soloist ably demonstrate that scholarship and application can make up for a century of lost experience. Christopher Lambton