Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers

Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers

Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers, 1852-1924, English composer and teacher, b. Dublin, studied in Cambridge, and Leipzig. In 1883 he became professor of music at the Royal College of Music, and in 1887 at Cambridge; he held both positions until his death. His compositions include seven operas, of which the comic opera Shamus O'Brien (1896) was most popular; seven symphonies; choral works; and chamber music. Only his Anglican church services and anthems are still regularly performed. He edited and arranged collections of Irish songs and wrote a textbook of composition and several autobiographical works.

See biography by H. P. Greene (1935).

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish composer, resident in England for much of his life.


Stanford was born in Dublin, the only son of John Stanford, examiner in the Court of Chancery (Dublin) and clerk of the Crown, County Meath. Both parents were accomplished amateur musicians; his father sang bass (and was also a cellist ) and his mother was a pianist. Charles trained under R. M. Levey (violin), Miss Meeke, Mrs Joseph Robinson, Miss Flynn and Michael Quarry (piano); and Sir Robert Stewart taught him composition and organ. His precocious ability was recorded in an article in The Musical Times in December 1898.

He came to London as a pupil of Arthur O'Leary and Ernst Pauer in 1862, and in 1870 won a scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge. In 1873 he moved to Trinity College (for whom he wrote his Three Latin Motets), succeeding J. L. Hopkins as college organist, a post he held until 1892. His appointment as conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society gave him great opportunities, and the fame which the society soon obtained was in the main due to Stanford's energies.

During his tenure many interesting performances and revivals took place. From 1874 to 1877 he was given leave of absence for part of each year to complete his studies in Germany, where he studied with Carl Reinecke and Friedrich Kiel. He took his BA degree in 1874 and MA in 1878, and was given the honorary degree of D.Mus. at Oxford in 1883 and at Cambridge in 1888.

He first became known as a composer with his incidental music to Tennyson's Queen Mary (Lyceum, 1876); and in 1881 his first opera, The Veiled Prophet, was given at Hanover (revived at Covent Garden, 1893); this was succeeded by Savonarola (Hamburg, April, and Covent Garden, July 1884), and The Canterbury Pilgrims (Drury Lane, 1884). His later operas were Shamus O'Brien (Opera Comique, 1896), Much Ado About Nothing (Covent Garden, 1901) (libretto - Julian Sturgis), The Critic (Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 1916), and The Travelling Companion (David Lewis Theatre, Liverpool, 1925).

He was appointed professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in 1883; was conductor of the Bach Choir from 1886 to 1902; was professor of music at Cambridge, succeeding Sir G. A. Macfarren from 1887; conductor of the Leeds Philharmonic Society from 1897 to 1909, and of the Leeds Festival from 1901 to 1910. He was an exacting but respected teacher whose pupils included Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Charles Wood (who succeeded him as music professor) and Herbert Howells. Notoriously irascible, he quarrelled with many of his contemporaries, including Elgar and Parry. He was knighted in 1902.


Stanford was particularly known in his day for his choral works, chiefly commissioned for performances at the great English provincial festivals. These include two oratorios, a Requiem (1897), a Stabat Mater (1907), and many secular works, often with a nautical theme, including The Revenge (1886), The Voyage of Maeldune (1889), Songs of the Sea (1904), and Songs of the Fleet (1910). His church music still holds a central place among Anglican compositions; particularly popular examples include his Evening Services in B flat, A, G, and C, his Three Latin Motets (Beati quorum via, Justorum animae, and Coelos ascendit hodie), and his anthem For lo, I raise up.

His instrumental works include seven symphonies, six Irish Rhapsodies for orchestra, several works for organ, concertos for violin,cello, clarinet, and piano, and many chamber compositions, including eight string quartets. He also composed songs, part-songs, madrigals, and incidental music to Eumenides and Oedipus Rex (as performed at Cambridge), as well as to Tennyson's Becket. His music shows the influence of Brahms and Schumann, and to a lesser extent of Irish folk music; he was generally unsympathetic to more modern developments. Although his chief importance is often held to be as a teacher of many English composers of the next generation, the last two decades have seen a revival of interest in his larger compositions after a long period of neglect. He published several books, including an autobiography, Pages from an Unwritten Diary (1914).

List of works

Orchestral works


  • No. 1 in B flat major
  • No. 2 in D minor, "Elegiac"
  • No. 3 in F minor, "Irish" (Op. 28)
  • No. 4 in F major (Op. 31) (1888)
  • No. 5 in D major, "L'allegro ed il penseroso" (Op. 56)
  • No. 6 in E flat major, "In honour of the life-work of a great artist: George Frederick Watts" (Op. 94) (1905)
  • No. 7 in D minor (Op. 124)


  • Piano Concerto (early- no. "0") (1874)
  • Violin Concerto (early, 1875)
  • Cello Concerto in D minor (1879-1880)
  • Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor (Opus 59)
  • Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor (Op. 126)
  • Piano Concerto No.3 in E flat major (Op. 171, unfinished, orchestrated by Geoffrey Bush) (1919)
  • Concert Variations upon an English Theme "Down Among the Dead Men" for piano & orchestra in C Minor, Op 71
  • Suite for violin & orchestra, Op. 32
  • Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 74
  • Clarinet Concerto in A minor, Op. 80
  • Concert Piece for organ & orchestra, Op 181

Irish Rhapsodies

  • Irish Rhapsody for orchestra No 1 in D Minor, Op 78
  • Irish Rhapsody for orchestra No 2 in F Minor, Op 84 ("The Lament for the Son of Ossian")
  • Irish Rhapsody for orchestra No 3, Op 137
  • Irish Rhapsody for orchestra No 4 in A Minor, Op 141 ("Fisherman of Loch Neagh")
  • Irish Rhapsody for orchestra No 5 in G Minor, Op 147
  • Irish Rhapsody No. 6 for violin & orchestra, Op. 191

Other orchestral works

  • Funeral March 'The Martyrdom'
  • Oedipus Rex, incidental music, Op 29

Choral works

Anthems and motets

  • And I saw another Angel (Op. 37 No. 1)
  • For lo, I raise up (Op. 145)
  • If thou shalt confess (Op. 37 No. 2)
  • The Lord is my Shepherd (composed 1886)
  • Three Latin Motets (Op. 38)
    • Justorum animae
    • Coelos ascendit hodie
    • Beati quorum via


  • Morning, Evening, and Communion services:
    • B flat major (Op. 10)
    • A major (Op. 12)
    • F major (Op. 36)
    • G major (Op. 81)
    • C major (Op. 115)
    • D major for Unison Choir (1923)
  • Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings:
    • E flat major (1873; publ. 1996)
    • F major (Queens' Service) (1872; edited Ralph Woodward and publ. 1995)
    • on the 2nd and 3rd Gregorian Modes (1907)
    • A major
    • B flat major
    • C major

Works for choir and orchestra

  • Requiem, Op. 63 (1896)
  • The Revenge, a ballad of the fleet. (Op. 24.) Words by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Chamber Music

  • String quartets
    • No. 1 in G major, Op.44 (1891)
    • No. 2 in A minor, Op.45 (1891)
    • No. 3 in D minor, Op.64 (1897)
    • No. 4 in G minor, Op.99 (1907)
    • No. 5 in B flat major, Op.104 (1908)
    • No. 6 in A minor, Op.122 (1910)
    • No. 7 in C minor, Op.166 (1919)
    • No. 8 in E minor, Op.167 (1919)
  • Other works for string ensemble
  • Piano trios
    • No. 1 in E flat major, Op.35 (1889)
    • No. 2 in G minor, Op.73 (1899)
    • No. 3 in A "Per aspera ad astra", Op.158 (1918)
  • Works for violin and piano
    • Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op.11 (1880)
    • Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op.70 (1898)
    • Sonata No. 3, Op.165 (1919)
    • Legend, WoO (1893)
    • Irish Fantasies, Op.54 (1894)
    • Five Characteristic Pieces, Op.93 (1905)
    • Six Irish Sketches, Op.154 (1917)
    • Six Easy Pieces, Op.155 (1917)
    • Five Bagatelles, Op.183 (1921)
  • Other works for solo instrument and piano
    • Sonata No. 1 in A major for violoncello & piano, Op.9 (1878)
    • Sonata No. 2 in D minor for violoncello & piano, Op.39 (1893)
    • Three Intermezzi for clarinet & piano, Op.13 (1880)
    • Sonata for clarinet (or viola) & piano, Op.129 (1912)
  • Other works for strings and piano
  • Serenade in F major for Nonet, Op.95 (1906)
  • Fantasy No. 1 in G minor for clarinet & string quartet WoO (1921)
  • Fantasy No. 2 in F major for clarinet & string quartet WoO (1922)
  • Phantasy for horn & string quartet in A minor WoO (1922)

Piano Music

  • Preludes, Op.163
  • Ballade, Op.170

Organ Music

  • Chorale Preludes (8)
  • Chorale Preludes, Op. 182
  • Fantasia and Toccata, Op. 57 (1894, revised 1917)
  • Fantasie on Intercessor, Op. 187
  • Four Intermezzi
  • Idyl and Fantasia, Op. 121
  • Intermezzo on Londonderry Air, Op. 189
  • Prelude and Fugue in E Minor
  • Quasi ina Fantasia (1921)
  • Six Occasional Preludes, 2 books
  • Six Preludes, Op. 88
  • Six Short Preludes and Postludes, Op. 101
  • Six Short Preludes and Postludes, Op. 105
  • Sonata No. 1, Op. 149,(1917)
  • Sonata No. 2, Op. 151 (1917)
  • Sonata No. 3, Op. 152 (1918)
  • Sonata No. 4, Op. 153 (1920)
  • Sonata No. 5, Op. 159 (1921)
  • Te Deum Laudamus Fantasy
  • Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 93 (1923)
  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (1907)
  • Fantasie & Fugue D min, op.103 (1907)



See also


  • Jeremy Dibble - Charles Villiers Stanford: man and musician (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Paul J. Rodmell - Charles Villiers Stanford (Aldershot, Hampshire: Scolar Press, 2002)


External links

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