Stanford: String Quartets – No 5 in B flat major, Op 104 (In Memoriam Joseph Joachim); No 8 in E minor, Op 167; Joachim: Romance for violin and piano, Op 2 No 1

Reviewed on Fri 25 Nov, 2016

The Fifth of Stanford's eight string quartets strikes me as a genuine find. The Adagio pesante slow movement comprises a powerful threnody in the remote key of F sharp minor (the work's home tonality is B flat major), and the mood of serene acceptance distilled in the finale's closing pages is haunting indeed.

Amazing to think that music of such palpable quality has suffered neglect for so long. The Fifth of Stanford's eight string quartets strikes me as a genuine find. Written in November 1907 in response to news of the death three months previously of Joseph Joachim (an incredibly supportive friend and colleague to the composer), the coda of each of its four movements subtly references the opening phrase of Joachim's early Romance for violin and piano (also included here). The Adagio pesante slow movement comprises a powerful threnody in the remote key of F sharp minor (the work's home tonality is B flat major), and the mood of serene acceptance distilled in the finale's closing pages is haunting indeed. The members of the Dante Quartet lend this rewarding offering wholly committed advocacy, as they do the Eighth Quartet. Completed on 25 June 1919, this almost certainly had to wait until March 1968 for its world premiere (in a BBC broadcast). Another consummately crafted, tautly argued affair, it, too, can boast much nourishing and supremely touching invention. A most enterprising and thoroughly likeable release, this, truthfully engineered, and well worth tracking down.
–Andrew Achenbach