Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
String Quintet No.1 in F Major, Op.85
For 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello
Stanford's Op.85 String Quintet, the first of of two, was intended for performance by the famous violinist Joseph Joachim and his string quartet. It dates from 1903
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was born in Dublin. Took a classics degree at Cambridge University and then went to Leipzig Conservatory where he studied composition with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig, followed by stint in Berlin where he studied with Friedrich Kiel. While abroad, Stanford met Brahms and became an admirer. The once high reputation that he enjoyed all but disappeared after the First World War when tastes changed and Romanticism was for a time discredited. Stanford's importance in the realm of British chamber music cannot be over-estimated. He 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.
The opening Allegro to the Quintet begins with a buoyant theme, full of warmth and richly written. While one occasionally hears the influence of Brahms, Stanford's writing is more transparent and not as heavy. The middle movement, Andante, after a short introduction gives way to a lovely viola solo. The second theme is clearly taken from Irish folk melody. A powerful and rhythmically restless middle section presents a lament. Critics have suggested that the String Quintet is in three movement because structurally, Stanford modeled italong the lines of Brahms' first string quintet. However, there really are four movements, Stanford chose to combine the scherzo, an Allegretto, with the finale, an Allegro, into one movement. The two are linked together by the larger structure of a theme and set of variations. The Allegretto, gives out the theme, also of Irish origin. The finale serves as the last and biggest variation. Our sound-bite gives selections from each part.
This finely crafted work, full of lovely melodies and excellent part-writing surely deserves to be rescued from the obscurity in which it has rested for for more than 75 years. Long out of print, we think it will be of interest to amateurs and professionals alike.