Not very English, but lovely and romantic
Evan Wilson | Cambridge, MA | 08/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Villiers Stanford was the teacher of a generation of famous English composers, but virtually all of his music fell into oblivion soon after his death. In fact, the commentator for this disc notes that the 6th Symphony--composed in 1905 to honor the artist George Frederick Watts--was performed twice and then forgotten. This isn't music that deserves oblivion, even if it isn't terribly original either. Stanford's symphonies look to the model set by Brahms and Schumann, containing little that could be said to be recognizably English (although I hear several bits that Vaughan Williams may have remembered when he was composing his symphonies). That said, there are some lovely ideas here, especially in the Adagio with it's beautiful English Horn melody. Stanford's orchestration is rich and he often uses the horns in an attractively "gutsy" way. Handley paces this unfamiliar music very effectively, keeping things moving along without missing the flowers by the roadside. His players cover themselves with glory by producing a rich attractive sound.Vernon Handley did everyone a service when he recorded Stanford's seven symphonies (plus, several concertos and other orchestral pieces) back in the late 80's. It's wonderful that Chandos keeps this warm music available to those curious to explore the byways of Romanticism. Start with the Third Symphony and if you like it, you ought to consider the 6th next."
The noble "Love" theme lifts the 6th Symphony and creates a
Art and Music Guy | Pittsburgh, PA, USA | 09/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first Stanford symphony I encountered, and now having heard and purchased half of his symphonic production, the 6th symphony remains my favorite. Why? It is because of the episodic construction, critiqued elsewhere as a deficiency. Stanford's inspiration was the work of George Frederick Watts, an English painter whose own work has fallen into obscurity. The same sense of Victorian earnestness that seems passe today causes some fine art to be unfairly forgotten; such is the case with Stanford's 6th. It is a good mirror to Watts' paintings, and as such must be appreciated as a more narrative work than say, Stanford's 7th. Two themes, "Love" and "Death" weave throughout the work. The swelling second movement is a delight, but it is the finale which I find most endearing. The final triumph of the "Love" theme at the end of the artist's life-journey is like a blazing sunset-- elegiac, yet powerful. Listen to this symphony and try not to be puffed up with good spirits-- you will not be able to resist the 'earnestness' and inherent heroism of the final rising tune in the strings, over a brass call.
The Irish Rhapsody matches well, if only for its built-in narrative quality, based, as it is, on O Danny Boy."