The symphonies and orchestral rhapsodies of Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, largely recorded on Chandos, got my attention during the late 1980s and all of the 1990s, when CD’s were all the rage.
The rhapsodies often use Irish folk songs as second subjects, developing them as symphonic material. The Irish Rhapsody #1 in D Minor presents the song “Danny Boy” as a second subject at about the 5 minute mark. The work does not bring the tune to the triumph that it might have. But singer Josh Groban would do so with the song “You Raise Me Up” in 2010, the last year of my own mother’s life.
But my favorite of the Irish Rhapsodies is #4 in A Minor, Op. 141, “The Fisheman of Lough Neah and what He Saw”, here on Chandos with Vernon Handley and the Ulster Orchestra. The fisherman may have seen the Second Coming. The Rhapsody takes another folk song and builds it up to majestic shouts at the end. This work was a favorite on mine in the 1990s, as I worked on my first DADT book during the debate on “don’t ask don’t tell”.
Stanford wrote six symphonies, in the vein of Brahms and Elgar, which we’ll return to later.