Think of Stanford and the genre of the string quartet probably won’t come to mind. But he composed no fewer than eight such works over a twenty-five year period, inspired by his friendship with the great violinist Joseph Joachim. Stanford had already composed a number of large-scale chamber works before he began his first string quartet in the summer of 1891, when he was thirty-nine; the second string quartet followed immediately during a burst of dazzling creativity. Both quartets are serious, big-boned works that show Stanford’s mastery of the idiom and ability as a contrapuntist, although they generally display textures that are lighter and more transparent than the thicker palette of Brahms (with whom Stanford is sometimes compared). These delightful works also reveal Stanford’s love of song and lyricism. Throughout, the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet play with a rare sensitivy and a natural eloquence.
The Horn Fantasy – a later work, dating from 1922 – is dramatic, compelling and flawlessly written for the genre (a rare combination of instruments and quite possibly composed as a tribute to Mozart, whom Stanford greatly admired), and it is superbly played by Stephen Stirling.
All works are here recorded for the first time.
'the string quartet writing here reveals the composer at his most fecund and imaginative. The highly adept RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, which hails from Stanford's native Dublin, brings a terrific energy to these appetising works' (The Strad)
'These two quartets are alive with melodic invention and supremely crafted … Stephen Stirling is a sweet-toned soloist alongside the consistently stylish playing of this fine Irish quartet' (Classic FM Magazine)
'if Stanford's other six [quartets] are as good as the two recorded here, unbelievably for the first time, they are all long overdue for revival' (Birmingham Post)
'The playing on this new Hyperion release is flawless, and their tonal palette perfect for Stanford's music. Stephen Stirling's horn in the Fantasy is warm and glowing. This is very highly recommended, and with a plea to the Vanbrugh and Hyperion for Stanford's remaining six quartets' (Fanfare, USA)
Streichquartett Nr. 1 G-Dur op. 44
1. Allegro assai
2. Poco allegro e grazioso - Presto - Tempo 1 - Presto - Tempo 1
3. Largo con molto espressione
4. Allegro molto
Streichquartett Nr. 2 a-moll op. 45
1. Molto moderato - Più moto - Tempo 1 - Più moto - Tempo 1
3. Andante espressivo
4. Allegro molto
Fantasie für Horn und Streichquartett a-moll
1. Allegro moderato (ma appassionato) - Allegretto - Tempo primo - Presto - Vivace