Stanley’s Op.2 Concertos were published in 1742. The models
at the time were Corelli, and Gemianini, as well as Handel,
and the means at one’s disposal included French overtures,
jigs, Allemandes, terse Adagios, fugues, slivers of Largo introductions
and indeed the usual panoply of mid-eighteenth century devices
that provide contrast and descriptive rhythmic vivacity.
An interesting feature of this recording is that Concertos 3
and 6 are heard in their presumed original state as organ concertos.
Certainly No.6 was published as the third of Stanley’s
lively and hugely enjoyable Op.10 Organ Concertos in 1775. The
version heard here is a conflation of the two published ones.
With regard to the Organ Concertos themselves I can strongly
recommend, in that context, the recording made by Gerald Gifford
and the Northern Sinfonia, on CRD3365.
The Concertos are genial, inventive and engaging. They don’t
operate on quite the same level of lyric success as the Organ
Concertos, if one is to compare and contrast between them, but
there are some marvellous - if compressed - moments along the
way that will bring succour to the appreciator of Stanley’s
fluid and imaginative musical mind.
There is, for example, an engagingly virile Allegro as the centrepiece
of the First Concerto, in D major and a powerfully accented
Largo opening to the B minor [No.2] with its ensuing, warmly
spun Adagio. The Allegro that follows sports a cello solo, excellently
soliloquised by Mark Caudle in what is - at 3:42 - the longest
single movement in this set. Paul Nicholson is the organist,
and his playing is fluent, adept and wholly admirable in its
discretion and imagination. He plays the very Handelian second
movement of the Third Concerto with due awareness of its stylistic
origins and proves convincing in his registrations in the following
Allegro movement. Roy Goodman, solo violinist, is in good form
in the concertino demands of the second movement of the Fourth
as he is in the first Allegro of the Fifth where vitality and
crispness are on show. The movement here that most rivals the
Organ Concertos in panache, style and consistent melodic distinction
is probably the first Allegro of the Sixth Concerto - which
is played as an Organ Concerto here, of course. It sets the
seal on a spirited and engaging set of performances.
This would make a fine purchase, but one should be aware of
the rather more polished and more recently recorded traversal
by Collegium Musicum 90 and Simon Standage [Chandos Chaconne
CHAN0638] where there is rather greater zest and a more athletic
virtuosity on display. Even so, this Hyperion Helios reissue
is still a solid contender and enshrines some fine playing,
and fine music.