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CHAN 7099
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CHAN 7099

Stanford: Piano Concerto No. 2 · Concert Variations upon an English Theme

The Classical Shop
release date: July 1998

Originally recorded in 1997


Ulster Orchestra

Vernon Handley

Margaret Fingerhut



Ulster Hall, Belfast


Brian Couzens


Ralph Couzens

Ben Connellan


Record Label



Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 65:48
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Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 126

  in C minor - c-Moll - ut mineur  
1 I Allegro moderato 15:28
2 II Adagio molto - Più mosso (quasi andante) 12:36
3 III Allegro molto - Largamente e sostenuto 10:41

Concert Variations upon an English Theme

  'Down Among the Dead Men'  
  for piano and orchestra, Op. 71  
4 Introduction: Lento - Allegro moderato - 2:23
  Lento - Allegro moderato  
  Thema: Allegro vivace  
5 I Tranquillo 0:50
6 II Poco più moto 1:00
7 III Poco meno mosso 1:21
8 IV Presto 0:39
9 V - 0:52
10 VI Poco a poco più sostenuto 1:29
11 VII Intermezzo 2:19
12 VIII Andante tranquillo 2:10
13 IX - 1:55
14 X - 0:49
15 XI Lento 3:42
16 XII Finale: Allegro moderato e deciso 7:34

An accomplished disc of virtuosic music from Margaret Fingerhut with the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Vernon Handley.

Stanford wrote extensively in every form, producing seven symphonies, ten operas and over thirty substantial choral works. There were also a great many songs, plus chamber, piano, sacred and organ works.

The Second Piano Concerto is one of the most romantic by a British composer, with the glorious first movement opening with the soloist at first unaccompanied but soon joined by the horns’ rising motif, a motto which recurs at the end of the Concerto. The first subject group is completed by a rising figure in the strings and a dotted upward leaping idea. After this virile start the sudden contrast of the second subject is perfectly judged: a heartfelt piano theme sings out over a rocking accompanimentin the left hand. A particualrly effective moment during the development occurs in a Molto tranquillo section where the piano is joined by solo cello and two clarinets.The second movement consists of chordal piano writing marked to be played arpeggiando throughout. The melody is serene and is shortly contrasted with an equally poised middle section. If there are Irish inflections in this work the repeated notes of this quiet music have a feel of some distant folk song. The finale starts loud and brash, with a stamping dancing tune. Two quieter sections follow, the second of which returns us to the slow movement. This stamping tune returns with the opening horn call and together they propel the music to a vigorous conclusion.

The traditional tune ’Down Among the Dead Men’ was probably taken by Stanford from William Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time. The work opens with an introductory Lento in C minor at first largely given to the piano, but announced and punctuated by a portentous falling figure from the end of the tune that is to come. The tempo changes to Allegro vivace and the theme is stated by the orchestra, already counterpointing two motifs from it. In the first variation the soloist’s running passage work is pointed up with the orchestra’s fragmentry statements of the theme. in the fourth variation, a scampering Presto, the piano is silent, as it is during the first part of the Intermezzo that forms the seventh. At the end of the ninth variation against long-held trills in the piano and the marking Allegro con fuoco, we prepare for the dancing 6/8 of the tenth variation, where Stanford can no longer contain his Irish high spirits. The solemn eleventh is a massive chordal meditation by the soloist alone; at its end the orchestra returns and there is a gradual accerando to Allegro and then Presto, acting as a bridge to the extended finale (Allegro moderato e deciso) which returns us to the opening key.


"...Margaret Fingerhut plays both pieces with absolute conviction, and the Ulster orchestra under Vernon Handley lend enthusiastically full-blooded support. If you’re a fan of late-Romantic piano showpieces, this CD is certainly worth a try."   ****

Classic CD - September 1998

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