Stanford: Violin Concerto in D; Suite for violin & orchestra

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D; Suite for violin & orchestra
PERFORMER: Anthony Marwood (violin); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
It’s plain that Elgar didn’t come from nowhere to shrug off England’s epithet ‘The Land without Music’, particularly in the light of recent recordings of Parry and Stanford’s orchestral music. And this CD adds to that picture: it’s disconcerting to hear so many pre-echoes of Elgar’s Violin Concerto in the first movement of the Suite, even though there are plenty of sideways glances at Brahms, still very much alive when the work was written in 1888. Still more Brahmsian is the central Ballade, which must have endeared it to Joachim, for whom Stanford wrote the work, and who gave its first performance. And there are references to Joachim’s beloved Bach, in the unaccompanied violin passage (dotted in true Baroque style) which opens the work, and the second movement Allemande. Marwood is committed in the solo part, though a little lightweight in the more Romantically effusive passages: this is also the case in the Violin Concerto, a bigger piece which needs a bigger player to give it its full due. The second movement Canzona could do with greater depth, and its cadenza needs more passionate brilliance, as does the finale, whose triple rhythm recalls Beethoven at times. All the same, an enjoyable excursion into the unfamiliar. Martin Cotton