Search This Blog

Friday, November 18, 2016

Charles Villiers Stanford, Choral Music

Perhaps it is hard to believe that 100 years ago Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was celebrated in England as one of the leading lights, especially for his choral works. Today he is not known as well as perhaps he might be. We have a chance to consider three of his landmark works in the genre on the Naxos (8.573512) album Choral Music. The Bach Choir and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under David Hill plus four effective vocal soloists give us spirited readings.

The ambitious "Sabat Mater - Symphonic Cantata, Op. 96" (1906) heads the program with a long multi-movement work of symphonic depth. Choral dramatics with a late romantic flourish alternate with post-Wagnerian symphonic interludes. It is a satisfying journey through alternately elating and dramatically poignant supplications surrounding the lamentations of Mary and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The finale is breathtaking.

The "Song to the Soul, Op. 97b" (1913) went unperformed during Stanford's lifetime. It is a unified setting of two Walt Whitman poems out of the three he had initially adopted in 1906 for his "Songs of Faith." The work begins mysteriously with the orchestra fanning out a searching theme, then segues to a largo that beautifully provides the backdrop for the sopranos' entrance. On from there it goes lyrically into the setting of the two poems. Tender and jubilant passages alternate in effective ways. You can hear in this work especially his relation to Elgar and Vaughan Williams stylistically, in the one a contemporary, in the other something of a precursor.

"The Resurrection" (1875) was one of Stanford's first major works, undertaken initially while studying with Carl Reinecke, then later revised somewhat. It is a rapturous opus, nicely orchestrated and filled with choral sublimities.

The performances are excellent; the works substantial and will no doubt appeal to Anglophiles with a penchant for Elgar and Vaughan William's choral works. Stanford convinces as an inventive late romanticist with a special flair for the choral. Recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment