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Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, February 2009

For over a decade before Elgar’s First, Stanford’s “Irish Symphony” was the most-played British Symphony, at home and abroad… The Sixth Symphony was written in 1905. Stanford himself conducted the première with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Queen’s Hall on 18 January 1906…The Symphony was written “In honour of the life-work of a great artist: George Frederick Watts”. Though it has no specific programme Stanford named four works by Watts which had particularly influenced it: “Love and Life”, “Love and Death”, “Good luck to your fishing” and the equestrian statue “Physical Energy”…A symphony with such a splendid first movement and such an absolutely glorious slow movement obviously cannot be ignored.

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, October 2008

So the Naxos Stanford cycle nears the home straight, with only the First symphony remaining to be issued. This latest instalment maintains the high standards of the previous two releases, offering fine playing, which is by turns spirited and poetic, and very good sound. As ever, David Lloyd-Jones is thoroughly inside the music. …Those who have invested in earlier volumes will need no persuading to add this latest instalment. If you haven’t tried Stanford’s symphonies, this fine disc will be an excellent introduction.

American Record Guide, September 2008

I'm pleased to report Naxos is close to completing their impressive survey of the Stanford symphonies with David Lloyd-Jones and the Bournemouth Symphony: only 1 remains. …Here I'm gratified to report Lloyd-Jones is on top form…

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, September 2008

Another high-quality addition to David Lloyd-Jones's rewarding Stanford cycle

Completed in 1887, the Irish Symphony (the Third in Stanford's set of seven) enjoyed considerable acclaim both at home and abroad (von Bülow and Richter were early champions, and in 1910 Mahler conducted two performances in New York). After a solidly constructed opening Allegro moderato, the Irish flavour comes to the fore with a disarming hop, skip and jig of a scherzo, followed by a nobly beautiful lament (of markedly Brahmsian hue and framed by some gorgeous harp-writing) and a finale which deploys two folk tunes and ties up the threads in rousingly effective fashion. Lloyd-Jones's is, in fact, the second recording of this lovable creation we've had from Boumemouth and represents a more dynamic and luminous voyage of discovery than its sturdier 1982 predecessor under Del Mar (EMI, no longer available). Handley's sprightly 1986 Ulster account (Chandos) is arguably more cogent than either but now sounds a little raw next to this judiciously balanced newcomer.

Written very quickly in the spring of 1905 as a personal response to the recent death and legacy of the esteemed Victorian artist George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), the Sixth Symphony has fared less happily, receiving a mere two performances until its Belfast revival under Handley some 80 years later. A looser-limbed affair than its lengthier bedfellow here, it still affords a sizeable quotient of incidental pleasures (the glowingly sincere slow movement and consolatory closing pages stand out from their garrulous surroundings). Lloyd-Jones masterminds an affectionate, finely disciplined reading, with tensions kept agreeably on the boil throughout, though again it's Handley (Chandos) who better disguises any architectural shortcomings. No matter, it all adds up to another thoroughly desirable (and, at just over 80 minutes, generous) coupling in this useful series.

David Hurwitz, August 2008

If you're curious about Stanford's symphonic output, this is clearly the place to start. Read full review at ClassicsToday

Julian Haylock
Classic FM, July 2008

Stanford’s Symphony No.3 is more notable for its dreamy lyricism than its symphonic muscle, but the resplendent Sixth Symphony is a blazing triumph from start to finish.

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, June 2008

Standards remain high in Lloyd-Jones’s continuing cycle. Here we have the third installment of David Lloyd-Jones’s new Stanford symphonies set, and it continues the high standards set by the previous two issues, of 4 and 7, and 2 and 5. The curiosity for most outlying Stanford fans here will be the Sixth Symphony, “in honour of G.F. Watts," one of the premiere artists of the age, and surprisingly edging the composer on to portions of stylistic freshness (he was arch-conservative, and considered a bit of a relic, albeit a beloved one, near the end of his career). I am referring to the almost Bruckner-sounding chorales in the slow movement, and that make a similar thematic appearance in the finale. After the echt-Schumann and Mendelssohnian feel to so much of Stanford’s music (and he was also a pre-pastoralist of the English school), to hear the soaring line of Brucknerian intensity emerging like some long lost creature of another age is quite startling. But also very effective, and showing that perhaps even the excessive traditionalism of the composer was still open to new influences, despite the cherry-picking of rather smallish acceptance, and the composer’s own rather vitriolic polemics towards the end of his life. This symphony hit on hard times after its initial showing, and that is hard to understand, for it is not ultimately greater or lesser than the others.

In fact, the more popular “Irish” Symphony, which maintained his reputation well into the 1900s, is a lesser work, earlier of course by 18 years, and despite the cheery lines of folk-like provenance that glitter throughout, to me lacks the substance of the sixth - though this is of course one man’s opinion, and I can see how it would be attractive in concert halls, especially with the songful, bittersweet Andante third movement.

Handley’s versions set the standard for many, as I said in my review of Nos. 4 and 7, the Chandos sound does not always spell success, and the Bournemouthers make a good case for their take on these works, and Naxos an even better case for capturing the proper sonics. I can easily live with this series, especially because of the price (still cheap, but going up in recent years), and wonder if anything better will come along until some really big name orchestra takes a swipe at them. Even then, no matter who it is, they will have some formidable competition from Lloyd-Jones and company.

BBC Radio 3, May 2008

The second movement of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Irish Symphony, No. 3…the new recording from the Bournemouth SO conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, and after the gorgeous lilt of the playing there and the natural spring of the rhythms, Handley’s Chandos recording sounds surprisingly studied in comparison…although there’s perhaps a greater sense of the fire Stanford asks for in the finale. But I’ve found the new Bournemouth recording powerfully persuasive, for the easy charms of the Irish Symphony, and for almost convincing me that the 6th Symphony as a whole is better than its beautiful slow movement. The recording from the Lighthouse in Poole is a peach, and at Naxos’s budget price, this is becoming a highly recommendable survey of Stanford’s symphonies…just the Seventh and last to come.

Naxos has also been recording music by an Irish pupil of Stanford’s: Charles Wood, best-known for his contribution to the Anglican choral tradition, his many anthems and canticle-settings, and immortalised for generations of cathedral choristers as ‘Wood in F’ or ‘Wood in G’. But there was more to him than that: a piano concerto, string quartets, cantatas and chamber operas…and a complete St Mark Passion from 1920. The impetus for the commission came from the recognition that the Bach Passions were too vast for parish church choirs, and anyway, it was about time they had an alternative to Stainer’s ubiquitous Crucifixion.

Where Bach used Lutheran chorales, Wood employs hymns for choir and congregation: six of them, separating the gospel narrative. The most effective is the fifth hymn, which precedes the scene of the Crucifixion…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

Though born in Dublin, Charles Villiers Stanford was of English parentage and went back to England as a student at Cambridge University where, instead of studying law as his father intended, he chose a career in music.

That he retained a love for the country of his birth surfaced in the Third Symphony given the subtitle ‘Irish’. After leaving University he was to study composition in Leipzig and subsequently in Berlin, a fact that to many gave him a Germanic stigma.  Appointed Professor of Composition at Cambridge University on his return, he later took the same position at the newly created Royal College of Music in London where his students included Bridge, Vaughan Williams and Moeran. It was the emergence of their music and the international success of Edward Elgar’s that was to kill off the music of Stanford and his contemporaries, and by the time he was composing his last two symphonies the tide of musical style had turned against him. His Sixth, completed in 1905, carried the subtitle ‘In honour of the life-work of a great artist: George Frederick Watts’, Watts being among the most lauded British artists, his equestrian statue in Kensington Gardens, London, being a public example of his work. First performed in a highly publicised concert by the London Symphony Orchestra, there was only one further performance before it fell into eighty years of oblivion. Today you will be surprised that such a tuneful, exciting and well-crafted score could suffer such a fate. Add the name Elgar to the title page and it would be regarded as a masterpiece. Thankfully the Third Symphony of 1887 has maintained a place on the edge of the English standard repertoire. Taking its name from the use of Irish folk-tunes as melodic material, it is otherwise a typical Stanford product, the development of the folk material well handled.  This is the third volume of the Stanford symphony cycle from David Lloyd-Jones and the Bournemouth Symphony, a series that is receiving much critical acclaim. Maybe some would have expected him to notch up the tempo as the ‘Irish’ drives toward its conclusion, but he resists the temptation, and throughout he admirably paces both works in his warmly sympathetic approach. The orchestra is again in superb form, the recording engineers using more reverberation than in previous releases and to very good effect. Much recommended.

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