Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

1852-1924. English composer. His name is linked almost inevitably with his distinguished contemporaries, Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Edward Elgar. The former, who was professor of music at Oxford and wrote the first authoritative life of Bach in English, made a contribution of some importance in the choral realm, but affected the course of church music less than Stanford. Elgar, who was the most original and distinctive composer of the three, distinguished himself with his oratorios and symphonic works. All three men helped to bring in a new era in British music, a veritable renaissance of native talent that led directly to the achievements of the present century.

Stanford was born in Ireland, received the best musical education available in England, and studied also in Germany. As well as teaching composition at the Royal College of Music, he was professor of music at Cambridge. A whole generation of significant figures were at some time his pupils-among them Tertius Noble, who became so influential in the USA, and R. Vaughan Williams.* Stanford wrote much music of every kind, but it is his church music that has lived. He was the first to apply to English anthems and cathedral services the technique of motivic development and sound formal construction found in the works of the great European masters from the classical era onward. His services in B-flat and C are the best known. The Te Deum and the Magnificat from the former, for example, found wide acceptance separately as anthems apart from their planned liturgical function, and illustrate well the important aspects of their composer's work. They have unity and musical logic, effective modulations, and the organ accompaniments possess a degree of independent interest without obscuring the text.