PATRIC STANDFORD (b. 1939)
Symphony No. 5 (1985) 19.31
Ancient Verses for choir and percussion (1978) 14.10
Taikyoku (Symphony No. 4) for two pianos and percussion (1976)
Folksongs Set 1 for string orchestra (1983) 4.51
A Christmas Carol Symphony (1978) 15.44
RTS MUSIC 1997 Promotional CD (NOT FOR SALE) [75.00]
This is not a commercial disc so don't try ordering it from a retail source.
However, after reviewing the Kodaly Competition disc of Standford's St
Francis, I simply had to request it and attempt to write about the music.
The first thing to say is that I was agreeably surprised to find that this
is not 'a thing of rags and tatters'. The disc which is packed to the extent
of 75 minutes includes only complete works of which there are five. Amongst
these there are no fewer than three of Standford's symphonies.
Regrettably details of the performers are not given although these must surely
be from the premiere performances or broadcasts. This anonymity may be associated
with the fact that this is not a commercial product and otherwise there might
have been copyright and royalty implications?
The orchestral Fifth Symphony (which is in respectable FM radio quality sound)
is in three movements of which the middle movement is a setting for solo
soprano of words from 'Carmina Burana'. The vocal writing is close to Tippett's
(vintage A Child of Our Time). The first movement is rife with energy
to the point of violence. Here the approximation is to the Panufnik Tragic
Overture and the 1940s and 1950s symphonies of William Schuman. The breezy
finale is a collage of quotations and almost-quotations each disrupting and
interacting with the others. The lynch-pin is the finale of Mozart Symphony
No. 40 with 'splinters' from Tchaikovsky (Pathétique), Beethoven
(Symphony 9) and Brahms (Symphony No. 3) among many other familiar voices.
Ancient Voices was written for Estonian performers. Britten's desperately
under-rated Our Hunting Fathers was surely an influence on the vocal
writing and in the third of the three movements the singing takes on a new
simplicity in a very high Bluebird-like stillness. Taikyoku is
a symphony for two pianos and percussion. It was premiered at the RCM. Howard
Shelley and Hilary Macnamara were the two pianists in its first broadcast
back in 1982. This would be a natural for Evelyn Glennie (with others!) and
in 1993 it duly received the Glennie Percussion Award. How to describe its
soundworld? It is busy and seething with movement. There is always something
happening! Shostakovich and George Crumb come to mind as do the fantasies
of Conlon Nancarrow and Henry Cowell. In the final, and extremely appealing,
short section (Perfumes) a Japanese minimalism plays out
In the singable simplicity of the Folk Songs for strings Standford
lucidly arranges and develops folksongs from Hungary, Cheremissia (Finland
close to Russia - remember Uuno Klami's Cheremissian Fantasy for cello
and orchestra?) and Romania. The recording quality is a shade chalky. Together
this succinct set plays for just over 4 minutes.
A shade of warmth and radio broadcast hiss hangs over the recording quality
of the Carol Symphony performance as well. This is also a melodious
piece without any of the modern complexities of the first three works. Christmas
songs wink at you from every corner: Deck the Boughs, Ding Dong
Merrily on High, Away in a Manger, We Three Kings and I
Saw Three Ships. The whole work is immediately appealing without being
at all anodyne. The andante is the crowning section - Baxian and Delian
in its heat-hazed self-absorption. The finale has suggestions of Grainger.
The original tape suffered a shade of overload but nothing to worry about.
More concerning (were this to have been a commercial product) is the fast
cycling 'scratch' that hangs over the last movement.
I do urge you to hear this music. All you need to do to request a copy (if
you have promotion and/or appraisal in mind) is to write to the address given
Standford has in hand a Sixth Symphony and an opera about François
Villon; also a book about the private lives of the composers. I do hope that
we get to hear these works and that the composer will consider issuing a
CD sampler of his cello concerto which I and many others are most anxious
to hear. I wonder if the Violin Concerto has been performed.
This is most remarkable introduction to a fine and too little known composer.
You can request a copy of this extraordinary promotional CD from:-
17 Bradford Road
Wakefield WF1 2RF
phone: +44 (0) 1924 370454
See also composer biography by
Read reviews of the following disc
Winners of the First International Composers' Competition.
PATRIC STANDFORD The Prayer of Saint Francis interrupted by bells
PETER KNELL The Sun's Blinking Eye
ROBERT GULYA Piano Concerto
Budapest SO and Hungarian Radio and TV Chorus/Tamas Vasary.
HUNGAROTON BR 0156 CD available from: Kodaly Foundation, Budapest