Stanford: Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor; Variations on 'Down Among the Dead Men'

Reviewed on Fri 24 May, 2013

At the 1910 Leeds Festival Stanford partnered Rachmaninov in a performance of his Second Piano Concerto in C minor. The Irish composer admired the piece hugely, and the soloist's rolling arpeggios at the outset of his own eponymous effort from 1913 unashamedly pay homage to it. Actually, you'll encounter further striking similarities along the journey, though much that is also inimitably Stanfordian, not least that indelible hop, skip and dance of a tune that launches the finale. Finghin Collins does the work absolutely proud (his burnished tone and glinting poise give oodles of pleasure) and he forms a real, breathing partnership with the Kenneth Montgomery and his bright-eyed Dublin band. The fluent Variations on 'Down Among the Dead Men' (an 18th-century drinking song) date from 1898 and fall beguilingly enough on the ear. However, the spellbindingly eloquent performance of the concerto is sufficient reason to invest in this splendid issue.
–Andrew Achenbach