Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
Piano Trio No.2 in g minor, Op.73
Stanford's Piano Trio No.2 was written when he was at the height of his powers and dates from 1899. Well constructed and full of fine melodies, this is a work which doubtless would have achieved considerable fame had it been written by a German rather than a British composer, such were the prejudices of that time.
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was without question one of Britain's most important 19th and early 20th century composers. He was fortunate in being able to study under two of the leading teachers of his day: Carl Reinecke in Leipzig and Friedrich Kiel in Berlin. While studying abroad, Stanford met Brahms and became friends with him. Upon his return to England, he helped found an English national style and contributed to the renaissance of British music. This was particularly true in the realm of chamber music where Stanford almost single-handedly jump-started the British repertoire. Among his many students were Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, Frank Bridge, Ernst Moeran, Arthur Bliss, and Percy Grainger. During his lifetime, he and his compositions were held in the highest regard.
After his death, he was unfairly attacked for having been too heavily influenced by the Germans, especially Brahms. But very few who studied in Germany escaped or wanted to escape this German influence. Men from such disparate backgrounds as Borodin, Busoni, Respighi, Grieg and the American George Chadwick, to name but a few
The Trio opens with an impetuous theme, Allegro moderato, rich and full-blooded. A questioning bridge passage leads to the romantic and lyrical second subject. In the second movement, Andante, the piano presents the gentle theme alone for sometime before the strings finally enter to restate it. (our sound-bite begins here). There is a short fugal bridge section which leads to the powerful, dramatic climax of the movement. This is followed by a Presto, which is a muscular and thrusting scherzo. The gorgeous trio section is slower and provides excellent contrast. The finale, Larghetto--Allegro con fuoco, begins with a slow, introduction, pregnant with expectation, in which several parts of what is to be the main theme, are heard in a distended version. Then, after a brief pause, the powerful Allegro bursts forth (our sound-bite starts here) fulfilling the expectations created by the Larghetto.
If the composer of this work had been German, no one would have hesitated, even today, to place it in the front rank of piano trios from this time period. Sadly, the prejudice against Anglo-America composers led to its being marginalized. We are pleased to make it available after more than a century of being out of print. It belongs in the concert hall and will be a joy to amateurs.