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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stanford the contemporary late 19th century composer
Here is the second instalment of Naxos' cycle of Charles Villiers Stanford's symphonies.

Charles Villiers Stanford lived from 1852 to 1924. He did a great deal to revive the fortunes of British music, which had not produced an internationally acclaimed home grown composer since the time of Purcell in the 17th century. His contribution included teaching many of...
Published on 2 Oct 2007 by Bernard Davis

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars boring...
Not the performance - that is fine and well captured in the bloom Naxos puts on the recording. But the music is essentially dull, sub-Brahmsian stuff. Stanford is much better in concerted works (try the wonderfully fresh Violin Concerto). Symphonically, he seems to be too much in the shadow of his German heroes. The performance here is really very good, however, and the...
Published on 10 May 2008 by Guy Whit


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stanford the contemporary late 19th century composer, 2 Oct 2007
This review is from: Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Audio CD)
Here is the second instalment of Naxos' cycle of Charles Villiers Stanford's symphonies.

Charles Villiers Stanford lived from 1852 to 1924. He did a great deal to revive the fortunes of British music, which had not produced an internationally acclaimed home grown composer since the time of Purcell in the 17th century. His contribution included teaching many of the next generation of composers, including Vaughan Williams and Holst. He is seen as a conservative composer who was unwilling to make the leap away from Germanic influenced music into the new home grown creativity that began to flourish at the end of the 19th century. However the music on the this disc shows him producing two symphonies in thoroughly contemporary style.

The first disc in the cycle gave us symphonies four and seven, which may both be described as music of the dance. They are expertly conceived and orchestrated, but not very original. Symphonies two and five are lively nature music with more than a hint of Dvorak about them. They show a mastery of the orchestra and explore a wide variety of moods. Stanford may be borrowing, but he makes what he borrows his own.

When the second symphony was composed in 1880 Dvorak's music had only just started to be played in England. The Fifth was completed about two years after Dvorak's `New World' Symphony. Nothing here reaches that level of creativity, but these works are not far behind. Listening to them Stanford does not sound like a conservative driving up a musical cul-de-sac while younger men are taking the main road into the 20th century. He sounds like a vital contemporary composer building a road between late 19th century European composition, especially the national music composers like Dvorak and Grieg, and the music of the coming generation of English composers. There are times when the nobility of Elgar's music is not far away, with, it has to be said, a clarity that Elgar sometimes lacked.

So, this is a thoroughly enjoyable CD. As ever the pairing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with conductor David Lloyd-Jones is a triumph. They make these little known works sound like old favourites from the concert repertoire.

For anyone new to Stanford's symphonies, or looking for a place to start exploring this cycle of the symphonies on Naxos this disc is probably a better place to start than the CD of symphonies four and seven. These are the stronger, more adventurous works. They will especially appeal to fans of Dvorak, Elgar and the early works of Vaughan Williams.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'I hear a wizard music roll', 3 Jan 2008
By 
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Audio CD)
I gave five stars to the first issue in this Naxos series of symphonies of Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) at least partly because I was surprised at the quality of the workmanship in those two symphonies, Nos. 4 & 7 in his series of seven. And although the craft apparent in the two symphonies included here -- Nos. 2 & 5 -- is equally expert, I don't think they rise to quite the same level. This is not to say that there isn't a great deal to enjoy, but both the materials and the formal qualities are just a bit below those of particularly the Seventh symphony. That said, though, I can give an endorsement, especially to those who liked the first volume. Stanford's music partakes of the same sort of atmosphere as those of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms with greater influence from the former than the latter composers.

Symphony No. 2 is subtitled 'Elegiac' and takes its inspiration, according to the composer, from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam'. There is no evidence that the work was written in memory of any particular person or persons, and frankly without the subtitle I doubt I would have been thinking it was especially elegiac. It is, however, a classically constructed work whose materials, some of them quite fresh but some of them rather shopworn, are subjected to the typical mid-nineteenth century manipulations. It was written in 1880 and even then may have seemed a bit old-fashioned. It had a brief popularity and then essentially disappeared from concert programs, even in Britain. There is no record of further performances until the 1990s. The first movement has a turbulent first theme followed by a mellow second theme. Nothing in the movement is outstanding. However, the second movement, a Lento espressivo, has more than a few touching moments. The third movement is a rollicking (and certainly not elegiac) Mendelssohnian scherzo with, as so often in the Fourth Symphony, much imitation of Mendelssohn's fairy music, but with some anticipation, strangely enough, of Bruckner's scherzi. The finale is the most nearly Brahmsian movement and after a solemn introduction it is a sonata allegro that leads to a triumphant finish.

The Fifth Symphony attempts to limn the moods of Milton's twin poems, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. Stanford incorporates excerpts from the poems into the printed score; they describe in words what he attempts to depict in music. It is a classically constructed symphony with a sonata allegro first movement followed by a genial Allegretto with hints of hunting horns and peasant merrymaking ('mirth with thee I mean to live'). In the third movement we move into 'penseroso' territory. It is a gorgeously harmonized chorale with four-voiced chords in strings and soft brass occasionally punctuated by piquant wind interjections. This movement, for me, is the highlight of the entire CD. The finale, Allegro molto, attempts to 'let gorgeous Tragedy/In sceptr'd pall come sweeping by' and then comes to a quietly affirmatory ending.

As in the earlier CD in this series, Lloyd-Jones and Bournemouth Symphony give us two beautifully played performances, fully competitive with the early recordings by Vernon Handley and the Ulster Orchestra, and at an attractive budget price.

Scott Morrison
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divided Opinions, 22 Aug 2011
This review is from: Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Audio CD)
Stanford's music seems to divide opinion quite widely. I think these symphonies are wonderful, written in the high Romantic manner with a craftsman's ear for classical form, and enlivened by a touch of local Irish colour. The big tune in the finale of Number five is worthy of Elgar at his best. But a warning, if you are incapable of listening to these symphonies without expecting Brahms or Elgar then you will be disappointed because they ain't written by either of 'em!
The performances and recording are exemplary.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars boring..., 10 May 2008
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This review is from: Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Audio CD)
Not the performance - that is fine and well captured in the bloom Naxos puts on the recording. But the music is essentially dull, sub-Brahmsian stuff. Stanford is much better in concerted works (try the wonderfully fresh Violin Concerto). Symphonically, he seems to be too much in the shadow of his German heroes. The performance here is really very good, however, and the price makes this self-recommending if you're into the byways and like traditional, well-crafted stuff that was thirty or more years out of date when it was written...
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Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5
Stanford: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 by Charles Villiers Stanford (Audio CD - 2007)
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