John STANLEY (1712-1786)
Six Concertos in Seven Parts Op.2 (1742) [58:13]
The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
rec. November 1988
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. 

Jonathan Woolf 

Fine playing, and fine music.