Choral music was central to Charles Villiers Stanford’s life as a composer. Balancing solemnity with rapturous affirmation, The Resurrection was his first major choral work, written while he was studying under Carl Reinecke in Leipzig and anticipating Mahler’s use of Klopstock’s eponymous poem in his ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. The dramatic, at times almost operatic and Wagnerian Stabat Mater is a cantata with two purely orchestral movements suggestive of a large-scale symphony, while Song to the Soul contains some of Stanford’s most exhilarating utterances, though it was never performed in his lifetime.
Listen to CD3 TRACK 14: Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice
More than any other composer, Gerald Finzi (1901–1956) has come to embody the lyrical pastoralism so associated with English twentieth-century music. This anthology includes eight critically acclaimed recordings of Finzi’s works. The themes of fragility and transient existence are expressed in three early song anthologies with words by Thomas Hardy, Finzi’s favourite poet. Intimations of Immortality is a deeply touching lament for the passing of the freshness of childhood, while the tender Dies natalis is a setting of texts by the 17th-century poet Thomas Traherne. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice takes the listener through a feast of moods and textures and ends with one of the most sublime Amens in all choral music. Finzi’s enchanting Clarinet Concerto was completed in 1949 in response to a commission from the Three Choirs Festival and the Cello Concerto, with its elegiac slow movement, was composed when Finzi learned that he was suffering from an incurable illness and is one of his finest works.
Listen to TRACK 2: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44
Tchaikovsky has long maintained his position as among the most popular of all composers, his unequalled gift for melody and colourful orchestration given added depth through a rich Russian soulfulness. The Second Piano Concerto has always lived under the shadow of the famous First but, played here in the composer’s original version, is full of life-enhancing character and emotion. Both this and the Concert Fantasia also contain beautiful chamber-music sections allowing unique interaction between soloist and orchestra.
In the last of this three volume series devoted to Granados’s orchestral music, two very different compositional strands are explored. The early Suite oriental reveals his sense of vivid orchestral colour and melodic imagination, couched in the exotic language of the time. Written in a more pared-down style, the one-act ‘lyric poem’ Liliana, a collaboration with the writer Apel·les Mestres, is a four-movement suite in which Granados conjures up a vivid, mythical world. Elisenda is another impressionistic score, both emotive and ethereal, here performed in its arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra.