Cello Concerto in D minor
Rondo in F for Cello and Orchestra
Ballata and Ballabile, Op.160
Irish Rhapsody No.3, Op.137
Gemma Rosefield (cello)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 6 & 7 January 2011 in City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow
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Dublin-born Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was never destined to break through any musical boundaries, but working within accepted tradition he left us some finely crafted, invigorating and rather lovely music. His complete music for cello and orchestra tidily fits onto a single compact disc and is also designated as Volume 3 of Hyperion’s series, “The Romantic Cello Concerto”. It’s a handsome addition to the catalogue both for Stanford’s very agreeable compositions and as part of the ongoing series.
Stanford’s Cello Concerto (1880) is a compact affair. It begins restlessly in the orchestra. It’s but a few seconds until the cellist enters. Although more overtly passionate than Robert Schumann’s example, Stanford’s counterpart carries some likeness. His concerto is a model of how to stay poised between largesse of expression and economy of form. This is music that strides purposefully and relaxes into attractive lyricism. At its headiest the writing for cello appears both demanding yet satisfying – Gemma Rosefield plays magnificently, addressing the technical hurdles with assurance, her sterling musicianship and beautiful tone shaping the poetic episodes with sensitivity. This is good and likeable music. The concerto is rounded off with a ruminative slow movement and an amiable, rhythmically chirpy finale, the latter introduced with some typically distinctive and expressive writing for wind instruments.
The Rondo is an early piece, from 1869, an accomplished and deft creation, lively and pleasing. Conversely, Ballata and Ballabile is late – from 1918 – with something of the flavour of Elgar’s contemporaneous Cello Concerto in the Ballata, if not as private or as poignant. Nevertheless the introspective melodiousness holds the attention over nearly eleven minutes. The Ballabile trips lightly along in the most delightful way. The Third Irish Rhapsody (there are six) is for cello and orchestra. Dating from 1913, this seems a highpoint in Stanford’s output, music that is personal and utterly persuasive, deeply felt in its illustration, the composer embracing Irish folk-music as if it were his own, building to a stimulating jig-like section.
As suggested, Gemma Rosefield plays marvellously, all boxes ticked. She is afforded animated and sensitive accompaniments under Andrew Manze’s sympathetic guidance. To complete a fully annotated release that may well be musically revelatory, and is certainly first-class in its execution, the recording is tangible, excellently balanced and naturally sounded.