- Symphony No. 4 in F major, Op. 31
- Irish Rhapsody No. 6 for violin & orchestra, Op. 191
- Oedipus Rex, incidental music, Op. 29: Prelude
Composed shortly after his wildly successful "Irish" symphony, Charles Villiers Stanford's "Symphony No. 4 in F major" was expected to be equally well received. According to historians, however, a lukewarm critical reception and too few performances led inevitably to the symphony's obscurity. On hearing this 1990 recording by Vernon Handley and the Ulster Orchestra, listeners may detect other reasons for the symphony's failure, not least its bald imitation of Brahms. The similarities of Stanford's movement structures, melodies, counterpoint, gestures, harmonies, modulations, syncopations, and orchestration with features in Brahms' four symphonies are not only striking, they are glaring. Surely Stanford's contemporaries must have recognized the source of his inspiration and felt uncomfortable with such a blatantly derivative work; at the remove of more than a century, the "Symphony No. 4" really sounds like a pastiche of Brahms at every turn, and it almost defies belief in its brazen borrowings. In any event, Handley and the orchestra turn in a respectable performance of the symphony, without overstating the obvious -- that would be impossible. The "Irish Rhapsody No. 6," with violinist Lydia Mordkovitch, and the "Prelude" from "Oedipus Rex" are enjoyable filler, apparently free of pilfering. Chandos provides fine sound quality.