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VICTORIAN AND MUSICIAN: CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD'S
SYMPHONIES INT CONTEXT
AARON C. KEEBAUGH
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF MUSIC
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
"From everything, a little remained."
-- R. E. K.
In loving memory of
John E. "Jack" Shaffer, 1928-2003.
I would first like to thank individually each of the members of my committee for
their wisdom, not only in this proj ect, but throughout my degree program. I thank Dr.
Larry Crook--for his knowledge, wisdom, and ability to help me see the other side of the
proverbial coin. I thank Dr. Joyce Davis--for our talks, lessons, and lunches. Her advice
is valuable to me both personally and professionally. I thank Dr. David Kushner-for
taking a chance and being a true role model and mentor through his encyclopedic musical
knowledge and professional experience. I thoroughly enjoy our eclectic conversations
over lunch and coffee and I look forward to working with you in the future. I would like
to extend personal "thank yous" to Professor Jeremy Dibble, Chair in Music at the
University of Durham, UK, for answering my questions regarding my research; and to Dr.
Jesse Hopkins, Professor Steve Watson, and Dr. Gary Adams of Bridgewater College and
Mr. James Schoenfelder of Altoona, PA for their encouragement in my decision to pursue
graduate work. I would also like to thank my family, Mom, Dad, and Ryan, for their
encouragement and support in my education, and my fiancee, Cari, for her constant
patience and solace when I was frustrated. Most important, I express my deepest
gratitude to Jack Shaffer, a dear pedagogue, mentor, and friend, who suddenly passed
away in January 2003. I will cherish our friendship in my heart for the rest of my days.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT S............... ........... iii
AB STRACT ................. ..............v.. ......... ....
1 INTTRODUC TION ................. ..............1.. ...._ ....
2 BIOGRAPHICAL OVERVIEW............... ...............4
3 THE SY MPHONIE S............ ..... ._ .............. 15...
Symphony No. 1 in B flat major............... ................. 15
Symphony No. 2 in D minor, "Elegiac "..................... .................................17
Symphony No. 3 in F minor, "Irish, op. 28............... ...................18
Symphony No. 4 in F maj or, op. 3 1................ ......... .. .. ............31
Symphony No. 5 in D maj or, "L 'Allegro ed il Pensieroso, op. 56. ................... ..43
Symphony No. 6 in E flat major, op. 94............... .................. 54
Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 124............... ...............56..
4 CONCLUSION. ............ ...... ._ ..............65...
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY. ............ ...... .__ ...............67....
B IO GRAPHIC AL SKET CH ........._._ .......... ..............71..
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Music
VICTORIAN AND MUSICIAN:
CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD'S SYMPHONIES IN CONTEXT
Aaron C. Keebaugh
Chairman: David Z. Kushner
Major Department: Music
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), Irish-born English composer, stood along
with Hubert Parry, Alexander Mackenzie, and Edward Elgar as the first generation of the
new English musical renaissance. These composers sought to elevate the standards of
English music and served to pave the way for a distinctly English musical style after
nearly two centuries of neglect. As a teacher, Stanford is best remembered as professor of
composition at the Royal College of Music; his pupils included such notable composers
as Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Frank Bridge. He was also an eminent
conductor who was instrumental in securing English premieres of several ofBrahms's
compositions. An active composer himself with a prodigious upbringing, Stanford' s best
known works included church and choral music. His symphonies, however, are little
known and rarely, if ever, performed today.
This thesis, therefore, offers a theoretical exploration of each of Stanford's seven
symphonies within historical context. Several of these works, while stylistically
derivative of the contemporary German symphonic tradition, employ unique aspects in
terms of subj ect matter, the very essence of a distinctly Victorian art music. Since
Stanford is too often neglected in many historical accounts of the symphony, this study
also serves to portray the composer as an important figure in the development of the
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), Irish-born English composer,
represents a mere strata of English musical history. After his death and even to the
present day, his name is synonymous with English church music. He composed
numerous anthems for voices and organ, five Masses, six complete settings of the
Anglican church service, and many hymns and carols. However, this seemingly vast array
of sacred music comprises only a fraction of his total output. He also composed vast
amounts of chamber music, solo piano and organ works, three piano concertos, two violin
concertos, six Irish Rhapsodies, and seven virtually unknown symphonies.
In early twentieth-century scholarship, Stanford receives mention among his
immediate contemporaries Hubert Parry, Alexander Mackenzie, and Edward Elgar, the
first shot fired in the English musical Renaissance. In his own lifetime, Elgar earned
increasing international praise as the leading English composer while Stanford, by then
associated with Mackenzie and Parry as the "Parry group," was written off as a dry
academic. Indeed, his (Stanford's) own students at the Royal College of Music, who
include such figures as Frank Bridge, Gustav Holst, Ivor Gurney, and Ralph Vaughan
Williams, are best known for shedding the Teutonic shackles of English Victorian music.
After his death, Stanford's accomplishments as a composer were forgotten, or at the least
swept under the proverbial rug.
One of the most oversimplified statements concerning nineteenth-century English
music is that the English symphony echoed the German symphonic traditions of the more
conservative Romantics--i.e. Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms-for its adherence to
classical forms, balanced str-uctures, and emotional self-control. Yet, in the postmodern
world, the century-old view of the Victorian culture as a collection of prudish, shallow,
and reticent individuals can no longer hold ground. Matthew Sweet's Inventing the
Victorians (2001) states that "suppose that everything we think we know about the
Victorians is wrong. That, in the century which has elapsed since 1901, we have misread
their culture, their history, their lives-perhaps deliberately, in order to satisfy our sense
of ourselves as liberated Moderns."' The musicologist Ruth Solie, in light of her
discipline's focus on the historic professionals of music (composers, performers, and
critics), offers a paradigm shift in that "a culture's musical practices, its attitudes toward
music .. are revealed more by the ubiquitous and everyday conversations of music' s
users than by the rulings of the experts and professionals, often to the chagrin of the
latter."2 In following the newly-paved highway of Victorian musical studies, this thesis
will focus on the symphonies of Charles Villiers Stanford within the context of his life
and surrounding culture, as well as his own belief system as teacher, political thinker, and
Only a few sources since Stanford's death have dealt with his works in a purely
objective light. Most important is Jeremy Dibble's definitive biography Charles Villiers
Stanford: Man and2~usician (2001); although, analytical discussion of the music itself
takes a back seat to the plethora of biographical detail. Several primary sources were
consulted in the preparation of this study: the composer' s own texts-Studies and
M~emories(1908), M~usical Composition: A .1/# #l t Treatise for Students (1911), Pages f~on
an theritten Dialy (1914), A History of2~usic (1930)- his obituary notices in The Times,
and several critical accounts of first performances of each of the symphonies. Chapter
one comprises a brief survey of Stanford' s career, political views, his teaching, and the
Matthew Sweet, La.. ,,ns;, the Victorians (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001): ix.
SRuth A. Solie, Ahtsic in Other Words: Victorian Conversations (Berkelev: University of California
Press, 2004): 2.
people in his immediate circles with whom he worked. The second chapter, which is the
meat of the study, comprises historical and analytical surveys of each of the seven
symphonies. The conclusion provides the author' s own view of Stanford the Victorian
and Stanford the composer within the broad contexts of English music historiography.
Born in Dublin on 30 September 1852, Charles Villiers Stanford had a childhood
wrought with musical and intellectual enlightenment. His father, John Stanford, was an
eminent lawyer and keen amateur bass singer.3 On various occasions, the Stanford
household frequented performances from amateur and professional musicians; the violin
virtuoso Joseph Joachim even paid occasional visits. The young Charles's early
education was rooted in classics and he received his early musical training from three of
Dublin's leading musicians: Robert Stewart, Joseph Robinson, and Michael Quarry. The
latter instructed Stanford on piano, as he himself was a former pupil of the pianist Ignaz
Moscheles.4 Stewart also instructed the young Irishman on the piano and, presumably,
the oragn. He had a reputation as a recitalist through his post as organist at Saint
Patrick' s Cathedral, a position he held for 50 years, and for his overtly French style of
playing.5 Robinson conducted the Antient Concert Society for 29 years (1834-1863)o
and the Cambridge University Choral Society, to which he had been appointed in 1837.
In 1848, the conductor, along with Stanford's father, founded the Irish Academy of
SFrom this account and several modern sources, John Stanford sang at a professional level. His son
stipulated that the elder Stanford could sing "from high F to low C [and] was one of the finest in quality
in style that I have ever heard anywhere" (27). John Stanford did not pursue a profession career as a singer
because of practical reasons. Charles Villiers Stanford, Pages from an Unwritten Diary (London: Edward
Amold, 1914): 27-29.
SLitte is known of Michael Quarry. There are records that he studied in Leipzig and returned to Dublin
and took up temporary employment at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, resigning in 1882. Jeremy
Dibble, ( IR, /. V illiers Stanford: Alan and Musician (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 26.
5 Stewart studied in Paris with Lefebure-Wdly, the organist at the Madeleine. Ibid., 22-23.
6 Robinson founded this organization when he was merely 18 years old. Ibid., 21-22.
Music. Robinson is also noteworthy for bringing Mendelssohn's music to the Emerald
Isle, and for his dedication to the musical growth of Ireland.' After his teacher' s death in
1898, Charles Stanford provided the following encomium:
To Ireland he was devoted, and no inducements to desert it for a more
lucrative and fame-bringing centre of activity ever found favor in his eyes.
Such personalities are rare, and their claim to recognition at the hands of
prosterity is irrefragable. The fact that a career is by choice and
conviction circumscribed in extent impels the chronicler all the more to do
justice to its merits when the work is closed and the worker silent;
especially when those merits are the sort which would have compelled the
widest admiration if their professor had so willed it.8
Despite his glowing admiration for the Irish conductor, Stanford felt that he had exhausted
his musical resources in Dublin by the time he was a teenager.g While his native city
contained a wealth of traditional folk song and dance, it lacked "the wealth of chamber and
orchestral music which was to be found across the seas."'o So, in the summer of 1862,
the young Irishman journeyed to London to further his musical prospects.
In England, Stanford absorbed the artistic culture that surrounded him. He
experienced for the first time the art works of the Pre-Raphaelites, notably Leighton,
Millias, and Watts" In music, he studied composition with Arthur O' Leary and piano
with Ernst Pauer. Stanford records that the latter instructed him "principally in Mozart"
and that he (Pauer) boasted to be a pupil of Mozart' s second son, Wolfgang."2 The
stimulus of his visit and lessons conj oined with his father' s connection and interest in all
SRobinson may have sown the seeds of Hibernian folklore into Stanford's young mind, for the soon-to-be
composer mentions that his (Robinson's) most valuable work in music lied in his arrangements of Irish
folk songs (126). Charles Villiers Stanford, Studies and Memories (London: Archibald Constable and
Company, 1908): 117-127.
SHe also studied violin with R. M. Levy (1811-1899). Dibble, op. cit., 26.
'O Stanford, Unwritten Diary, 21.
'2 bid., 71.
things musical provided ample room for Stanford's compositional abilities to flower. In
the following eight years, he composed church music, several songs, and two orchestral
works, a Rondo for cello and orchestra (1869) and a Concert Overture in A minor (1870).
When he was 18 years old, he won his father' s consent to pursue music as a career
rather than giving into the elder Stanford's "hankering for the Bar."l3 His father' s only
condition was that his son receive a general university education first, and then to pursue
musical studies abroad. Charles Stanford matriculated to Queen's College, Cambridge on
an organ scholarship in 1870.14 While at Cambridge, Stanford maintained an active musical
life. He composed his first Piano Concerto in B flat major (1874), the 2 Novellettes for
piano (1874), 2 Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F (1872) and E flat (1873) a handful of
songs and part songs, and incidental music to Longfellow's play The Spanish Student
(1871). He was also active as a conductor, assisting the then director of the Cambridge
University Music Society, John Larkin Hopkins in 1871, and, subsequently, becoming
full conductor of the same institution two years later. In 1873, Stanford moved to Trinity
College to fulfill his newly-appointed duties as conductor; concurrently, he was also
appointed as organist. As part of the agreement of his position, Stanford was able to
study in Germany after his graduation.'
For six months in 1874 and 1875, Stanford studied in Leipzig on a
recommendation by Sterndale Bennett,16 learning piano from Robert Papperitz and
composition from Karl Reinecke, a renowned pianist, composer, conductor, and
pedagogue. In the young composer' s own words, "Leipzig was the best centre for [a
student of composition]," for it had the best orchestra in Germany. "Weimar," states
13 Ibid., 103.
14 He won a classical scholarship the following June.
16 While Stanford considered Bennett to be England's leading composer, he was uneasy about studying
solely with him due to his lack of sympathy for any contemporary music. There was also little
opportunity for composition students to hear their works performed due to poor conductor's and orchestras.
Ibid., 156; Dibble, op. cit., 53.
Stanford, "was a much smaller centre, dominated by Liszt and his adherents, with no
school save for the pianoforte .. ." Dresden, at the time, "was mainly devoted to opera,
and there was no outstanding figure, except Julius Reitz who was getting
old. .."" Stanford's studies with Reinecke, however, were not to his liking:
Of all the dry musicians I have ever known he (Reinecke) was the most
desiccated. He had not a good word for any contemporary composer,
even for those of his own kidney. He loathed Wagner, once
described Elsa to me as a young woman without brains enough to make out
the list of clothes for the wash, sneered at Brahms, and had no enthusiasm
of any sort. But he enjoyed himself hugely when he was expounding and
writing canons, and had a fairly good idea of teaching them. His
composition training had no method about it whatever. He occasionally
made an astute criticism and that was all. He never gave a pupil a chance
of hearing his own work, the only really valuable means of training, and the
better the music, the less he inclined to encourage it. He was in
fact the embodiment of the typical "Philister."'
His dissatisfaction came to an end one year later when Joachim came to Leipzig and
offered to refer the young Irishman to Friedrich Kiel, a composition teacher in Berlin.
Under Kiel's tutelage, Stanford realized that he, in fact, had learned little to nothing from
Reinecke. Canon and organic development were key features in Kiel's teaching, '
elements that are primary features in Stanford's symphonic works. Although he busied
himself with his lessons, Stanford managed to compose prolifically. A Violin Concerto in
D major (1875); the part song To Chloris (1873); the set of six Heine songs, op. 4 (1874);
and two choral works, The Golden Legend (1874-1875) and The Resurrection (1875) are
but a few compositions from this period.
Stanford returned to Cambridge in 1877, after his "Wander-j ahren," to return to
his position as director of the Cambridge University Musical Society and part-time
17Stanford, Unwritten Diary, 143.
"9 According to Stanford, Kiel founded his teaching of counterpoint not upon traditional cantus firmus,
but Lutheran chorale tunes. Ibid., 164-165.
"organ-blow[er]"20 He had, by this point, readily established himself as a solid voice in
British music. His Piano Suite, op. 2 and Toccata, op. 3 for piano were published two
years prior, his First Symphony in B-flat maj or won second prize at the Alexandra
Palace competition of 1876. Indeed, Stanford desired to establish himself as a composer,
conductor, and performer. At Cambridge, he conducted several new and unfamiliar
masterworks, including Schumann's Paradise and the Peri and Brahms's Ein Deutsches
Requiem.21 He was also instrumental in securing the English premiere of Brahms's First
Symphony in C minor, under Joachim's beat.22 Furthermore, Stanford enabled numerous
performing artists such as Joachim, Edward Dannreuther, and Hans Richter to come to
Cambridge. As a pianist, he performed in the Cambridge University Musical Society's
"Popular Concerts," which featured chamber music.
As an active force in the development of British music, Stanford became
acquainted with the artistic elite of London. In 1879, he met the Victorian poet and
fellow Cambridge alumnus Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The composer became aware of
Tennyson' s work when he was selected by the poet himself to write incidental music for
his play Queen Mary in 1875.23 Stanford subsequently set a number of Tennyson' s
poems to song, including, Is it the Wind ofDaw/n (1898), Jack Ta~r (1900), and Claribel.
The poet, apparently, had a keen ear for how his work should be set to music, for
Stanford states the following with humility:
As he expressed it himself, he disliked music which went up when it ought
to go down, and went down when it ought to go up. I never knew him
wrong in his suggestions on this point. The most vivid instance I can recall
21 Ibid., 166.
22 The concert took place on 8 March 1877 and besides the symphony included Sterndale Bennett's
overture The Wood Nymphs, op. 20; Beethoven's Violin Concerto, op. 61 (with Joachim as soloist);
Brahms's A Song ofDestiny, op. 54; two violin solos by J. S. Bach, and Joachim's own Elegiac
Overture. Ibid., 173-174.
23 The music was, to Stanford's misfortune, never performed, even after the poet pressed the administration
of the Lyceum Theatre to reconsider. Ibid., 228-229; Stanford, Studies and Memories, 90.
2 Ibid., 93.
"5 Stanford, Unwritten Diary, 317.
was about a line in the "Revenge"- "Was he devil or man? He was devil
for aught they knew." When I played him my setting, the word "devil"
was set to a higher note in the question than it was in the answer; and the
penultimate word "they" was unaccented. He at once corrected me, saying
that the second word "devil" must be higher and stronger than the first,
and the "they" must be marked. He was perfectly right, and I altered it
accordingly. It was apparently a small point, but it was this insisting on
perfection of detail which made him the most valuable teacher of accurate
declamation that it was possible for a composer to learn from.2
Lord Tennyson' s poem In M~emoriamn is the programmatic basis for Stanford's Second
Symphony in D minor (1879).
The 1880's were stable and productive years for Stanford. In 1883, he joined the
faculty of the newly-formed Royal College of Music as professor of composition and
conductor of the orchestra. One of his crowning achievements at the institution was the
initiation of an opera class. Stanford was particularly enthusiastic about opera, even if, to
London audiences, it was nothing more than an exotic affair.25 His own works in the
medium stand as testaments to his own lifelong endeavor to install National Opera in
England: The Veiled Prophet ofKhora~ssan (1881), Savonarola (1884), his popular
Maumsl~n O 'Brien (1896), M~uch Ado about Nothing (1901), The Critic (1916), and The
Traveling Companion (1919). The composer was also appointed professor of music at
Cambridge in 1887; he held both teaching positions until his death. During the latter part
of the decade, two of Stanford's works, the Third Symphony in F minor (1887),
aptly-named the "Irish" for its use of folk songs, and his Fourth Symphony in F maj or
(1888), gained international appeal. Both works received premieres in London and Berlin.
Stanford' s political views during his Cambridge years lead to an ever-increasing
awareness of his Irish heritage, an aspect of his persona that crystalized in his
manipulation of folk elements in his works. His fear of a maj or political change,
particularly the fruition of women's suffrage,26 fueled his anxiety over the Irish question,
the question of home rule.27 Stanford gave his allegiance to Sir Edward Carson and James
Craig of Ulster, who threatened to use armed resistance if necessary. He also signed the
Covenant, which was made available for British sympathizers. In light of a heated debate
between himself, a protestant and conservative unionist, and Erskine Childers, a hardcore
republican, Stanford stuck to his argument that "Ireland does not want Home Rule. The
place-hunters want it, but not the people."28 Stanford's musical response to this and
subsequent political issues concerning Irish nationalism29 is found in his Irish Rhapsod'y
No. 4 (1913), also known as The Fisherman ofLough Neagh and' What He Saw; the
Ulster March (1913), and his song settings of the Ulster poet John Stevenson' s Pat
MaCalrty His Rhymes (1910). However, his unionist leanings and career as a leading
British musician tainted his nationalistic portraits with an English hue.30
As a teacher, he adhered to the traditional methods. In his 1911 treatise for
students, M~usical Composition, Stanford referred to the string quartet as a decathlon of
In chamber music it is still less possible to rely on colour as superior to
design. It bears the same relation to orchestral treatment that
water-colours do to oils. The texture and the mediums are thinner, and
flaws of workmanship are all the more obvious. But in music the mastery
of the one is essential as the mastery of the other.31
26 Dibble, op. cit., 403.
27 The Home Rule Bill was squashed by Parliament in the 1880's; however, the issue did not die then and
there. The Third Home Rule Bill was passed in the House of Commons, and despite the fact the it was
repeatedly sent back by the Lords, it rose to royal decision in 1914. Ibid., 403.
28 The UNimS (9 April 1914); also quoted inlbid., 404.
29 Particularly the threat of civil war and "gunrunning" in Howth, Kilcoole, and Ulster.
30 Murphy concludes that Stanford used the Irish elements as entertainment in his nationalistic works, a
view commonly held by the contemporary English population, and that he may never be considered a great
Irish composer since Irish audiences of the day also viewed his works through the same lens (55). Michael
Murphy, "Race, Nation, and Empire in the Irish Music of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford," Music in Ireland,
1848-1998 (2000): 46-55.
31 Charles Villiers Stanford, Musical Composition: A Short Treatise for Students (New York: The
Macmillan Co., 1911), 111.
For Stanford, writing a string quartet or trio is the best training to learn the treatment of
strings in an orchestral setting. Students who wish to understand the principles of the
string orchestra will, in Stanford' s opinion, undoubtedly benefit from exercises for a more
intimate instrumental setting. He advocates six points for the student composer of a trio
or quartet to follow: 1) the richness of a four-note chord in a string quartet, dependent on
the quality and quantity of the overtone series, is desirable to the same chord on the
piano; 2) there is little to be gained by unnecessary doubling, 3) it is important to secure
contrast with limited material; 4) students should strive for a pure style and avoid placing
any ill-fated note into the texture; 5) it is important to strive for complete freedom in the
relation of the four instruments to each other, 6) it is important to strive for the equality
of parts among all four voices.32 Indeed, these rules could be stretched to fit the larger
symphonic form, of which he also held specific views:
Music may be divided into two classes--absolute music, when the art
speaks for itself by sound alone, and descriptive music, when it illustrates
words or drama. There has always been a tendency, which in recent times
has grown into a cult, to allow the second class to trespass upon the first.
This type is necessarily a hybrid, but it has grown to such proportions
that it requires the fullest consideration in any treatise dealing with
composition. There can be no question that music which speaks for itself
is not only the purest, but also the most all-embracing form of the art.
Being intangible and indefinable, it suggests to different trains of thought,
and any defined programme of a movement given by one listener may be
miles apart from one given by another .. Programme-music, then, is the
incursion of music proper into the realms of the drama. How far can it
carry its invasion without being itself destroyed? Only so far as it is
intelligible to the ear, without help from any other organ. There are no
words or scenic adjuncts to assist it. It must not rely on a title (which
may be torn off) or an analysis ina book of words (which may go out of
print) for an explanation of the drift of the drama. It must tell a clear story
to any musical listener who does not happen to have seen the name, or to
have a shilling to buy a programme. If it succeeds under such conditions, it
is a work of art; if it does not, it is a work of artifieiality. In a word, it
must appeal, after all, as absolute music.33
" Ibid., 155, 158.
While it is abundantly clear, as we shall see in the following chapter, that
Stanford the symphonist matched sentiment with Stanford the teacher, it is
remarkable that two of his students, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams,
developed their own musical voice in spite of their master' s advice. The latter
provided the following statement:
[Stanford] has written some of the most beautiful music that has come
from these islands. He realized that all art which is worth while must
spring from its own soil. He made an exhaustive study of his own Irish
folk music; some of his arrangements, notably those known to British
hearers as "The Arbutus Tree" and "Father O' Flynn", are household
words .. Of course in Stanford's enormous output there is bound to be
a certain amount of dull music; but, after all, so there is in Beethoven and
Bach. At times his very facility led him astray. he could, at will, use the
technique of any other composer and often use it better than the
original, as in "The Middle Witch", where he beats Delius at his own game.
Sometimes he could not resist adding a clever touch which marred the
purity of his inspiration, as in the sophisticated repetition of the words
"lead the line" at the end of the otherwise beautiful song "Sailing at
Dawn." The bright young things of the younger generation do not seem to
know much about Stanford, and not having had the advantage of his
teaching are inclined to ignore what he did and what he taught. But I
believe he will return again. With the next generation the inevitable reaction
will set in and Stanford will come into his own.34
Stanford's personal friend and premiere biographer H. Plunket Greene waxed equally
optimistic, if not hyperbolical:
[Stanford] loved his pupils. Some of them no doubt turned into ugly
ducklings when he thought they were chickens. But the greatest tribute
they could pay to him was, that they went away and worked out their
own salvation for themselves. That is what a true teacher does. If he had
not been a great composer, he would have been the greatest teacher the
country has ever known. The whole of our modern school, which
probably stands higher than that of any other country at the present
moment, is absolutely founded on Stanford.35
"4 Ralph Vaughan Williams, "Charles Villiers Stanford," in National htsic and Other Essays (London:
Oxford University Press, 1963), 195-196.
"5 Quoted in T. F. Dunhill, "C. V. Stanford: Some Aspects of His Life and Works," Proceedings of the
Royal Ahtsical association 53 (1927-1928): 42-65.
Yet, what Plunket Greene neglected to mention here and in his biography of the composer
in 193530 WaS that, despite Stanford's excessive duties as conductor in the late-nineteenth
and early-twentieth centuries Edward Elgar succeeded Stanford and his contemporary
and fellow Royal College faculty member Hubert Parry as the most popular English
composer. A memorandum in Parry's diary in 1911 states:
C. V. S. (Stanford) wrote to Mackenzie on feeble grounds (!) against
Elgar's 2nd. Symphony being given-as it allowed him such a
disproportionate amount of time to other composers. He was furious
because he did not get an invitation to the Coronation.38
Despite the lack of public attention his music was receiving at this time,
Stanford continued to compose until the end of his life. He turned a great deal of
his productivity to gebrauchmusik for educational purposes as well as various
songs, piano pieces, and organ works for sheer economic reasons. He held fast to
his pro-Teutonic Victorian and Edwardian heritage, even when postwar society
negated such influence. He composed a few instr-umental pieces; however, not one
interested a single publisher.30 His Seventh Symphony and last two string
quartets were among this last repertoire. In a letter to his friend McEwen on
Christmas Day 1923, Stanford discussed his unpopularity in the public eye:
I suppose I am more or less out of date. I see all the youngsters going
ahead with stuff which I would not soil my pen and paper with, but my
pen and paper appear to be unacceptable to those who publish and has to
remain pen and paper.""
"6 H. Plunket Greene, C is,, /.. Villiers Stanford (London, 1935).
37 Stanford conducted the Bach choir from 1886-1902, the Leeds Philharmonic Society from 1897-1909,
and the Leeds Triennial Festival from 1901-1910.
"8 Quoted in Jeremy Dibble, "Parry and Elgar: A New Perspective," The Musical Times 125 (November
"9 Dibble, C u 1,,. I, F illiers Stanford, 449.
10 Letter from Stanford to McEwen, 25 December 1923. Quoted in Ibid., 449.
41 B. E. Lamble, "A Stanford Society?" The Musical Times 93/1317 (November 1952), 509.
In the decades following Stanford's death, his music, save that for the church, fell into
oblivion. Except for a brief call for a Stanford Society in 1952,41 the postwar world found
no room for his pro-Teutonic, Victorian elegance and classical style.
Symphony No. 1 in B flat
In 1875, the Alexandra Palace reopened after it burned down to years prior. In
order to attract attention and to regain its former status as a leading concert venue in
London, the Palace administration created a contest for a new symphony. The venture
failed, but the competition attracted 46 submissions from various aspiring composers.
All submissions were judged by Mcfarren and Joachim. One of the aspiring composers
was the 23-year-old Charles Stanford. Until this time he had merely dabbled in large
orchestral forms.42 Moreover, the young composer sought to test his compositional skill
in the larger international arena of symphonic form. The contest proved to be a valuable
opportunity for Stanford, for his work, the Symphony No. 1 in B flat, took the second
prize. The first prize was, coincidentally, to Macfarren's pupil and son-in-law Francis
Davenport for his Symphony in D minor. The Irishman dedicated the work to the tenor
Arthur Duke Coleridge, a friend of the composer' s at Cambridge.
Stanford's Symphony in B flat is a mature work and, by far, the most substantial
work of his youth. The tempo markings for each of the work' s four movements appear
as follows: I) Larghetto Allegro vivace; II) Scherzo in Landler tempo Trio 1) Presto-
Trio 2) Poco piu lento; III) Andante tranquillo; IV) Finale Allegro molto.
12 He composed two large-scale choral works: The Golden Legend for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra in
1874 and The Resurrection for chorus, orchestra, and organ in 1975. The Golden Legend never received a
premiere nor publication. Stanford also composed music for the stage: The Spanish Student, incidental
music to H. W. Longfellow's play in 1871 and Queen Mary, incidental music to a play by Alfred Lord
Tennyson in 1876. Stanford's score to Queen Mary received a premiere and publication. The composer
also wrote a rondo for cello and orchestra in 1869, a concert overture in 1870, a piano concerto in B flat in
1874, and a violin concerto in D in 1875. All of these works, however, remain unpublished.
The first movement opens with an extended introduction whose opening motive is later
transformed into the movement' s second theme. Soli and solo instrumental writing
abound in this movement. For example, the clarinets present the first theme, which is
later taken over by the trombones after a series of episodes. In the movement' s
recapitulation, a solo cello presents the second theme. The triumphant coda features the
trumpet section fanfaring the primary theme, though augmented in rhythm. While these
features are not unique to the symphonic repertoire, they demonstrate the young
Stanford' s command of orchestral timbres, an element that is indeed a feature of the
composer' s later mature symphonies.
The second movement comprises a scherzo and two contrasting trios. While the
placement of this form in the second movement is unusual in itself, the scherzo involves a
landler rhythm, an element commonly found in the symphonies of Franz Schubert. The
first trio section is cast in duple meter, owing to the scherzo-and-trio movements of the
symphonies of Robert Schumann. The second trio section, in triple meter, involves the
woodwinds and strings presenting a descending scalar pattern in canon.
Stanford's personal musical fingerprints are found in the third movement. Muted
violins and violas provide a hushed quality throughout the piece. The second subject, a
haunting melody with strains of sweet melancholy, is presented by the French horns,
evoking the style of Irish folk music. A solo violin appears towards the end of the
movement in a rubato style, complete with rhapsodic arpeggios and trills akin to an Irish
lament. The high-spirited Finale further corroborates Stanford's mastery of the
orchestral pallet. Driving repeated notes are key features of the primary subject, which
Stanford treats in a canon between strings and brass. The development section includes a
fugato based on the main theme, another characteristic of his mature style.
In general, this work "owes much to the strength and optimism of Schumann's
"Rhenish Symphony. "43 It is clear, however, that Stanford's First Symphony does not
4 Ibid., 79.
owe its clear, masterful orchestration to that of Schumann's oeuvre. The work remains
unpublished to this day.4
Symphony No. 2 in D minor, "Elegaic"
Stanford began work on his Second Symphony in July 1879 in the wake of his
success with the First Piano Quartet in F maj or, op. 15 and completion of his first opera
The Veiled Prophet ofKhora~ssan. The composer was, by this time, also moved by the
increasing enthusiasm for orchestral music in London.
Stanford finished the work in October of 1879, but made subsequent revisions of
the first movement.46 The unexpected death of his father on 17 July 1880 is a possible
reason for his choice of the subtitle Elegaic. In addition, he prefaced the work with
stanza 70 from Tennyson's In M~emoriamn:
I cannot see the features right
When on the gloom I strive to paint
The face I know; the hues are faint
And mix with hollow masks of night
Cloud-towers by ghostly masons wrought
A gulf that ever shuts and gapes,
A hand that points, and palled shapes
In shadowy thoroughfares of thought;
And crowds that stream from yawning doors,
And shoals of pucker' d faces drive;
Dark bulks that trumble half alive,
And lazy lengths on boundless shores;
Till all at once beyond the will
I hear a wizard music roll,
And thro' a lattice on the soul
Looks thy fair face and makes it still.
Much like the melancholic metaphors that comprise the strict eight-syllable format of
14 The manuscript is currently located in the Music Library at Northwestern University.
15 The Veiled Propher earned its premiere in Hanover in February 1881. Lewis Foreman, liner notes to
( is,,1 i.. Villiers Stanford: The Complete Symphonies (Chandos 1994).
"6 The author states that the manuscript for the first movement bears the date 21 December 1880. Dibble,
op. cit., 106.
Tennyson's verse, Stanford's "Elegaic Symphony assumes a solemn air. The work is
cast in the standard four-movement layout; the first three movements bear romantic
character markings: I) Allegro appassionato; II) Lento espressivo; III) Scherzo: Allegro
con fuoco; IV) Adagio moderato Allegro moderato Allegro molto ma non presto.
Stanford revised the work in 1882 and submitted it to Henry Cummings, director
of the Philharmonic Society, upon completion in hopes for a premiere. Cummings,
however, hid not accept it. The symphony finally earned a premiere on 7 March 1882 in
Cambridge at a concert given in honor of Joachim. A critic for The M~usical Times
(1 April 1882) stated that the piece was "by far the most important orchestral work by
Mr. Stanford that has hitherto been heard.""' The anonymous critic concluded that it
contained "an immense advance, both in power of conception and mastery over the
technicalities of orchestral treatment."48 The symphony was not performed again until
September of the following year at a Glouchester Three Choirs Festival concert.
Stanford' s work commenced the Thursday morning' s festivities, which included
Gonoud's The Redemption, an audience favorite. Charles Hartford Lloyd conducted the
work in Stanford's absence. Amidst numerous latecomers to the morning concert,"" the
critic for The M~usical Times states that "we like the Lento espressivo, Scherzo, and
Adagio better than either the opening Allegro appassionata or the final Allegro" and that
"the reminiscence of Beethoven, however, in the Scherzo [was] too obvious to escape
Symphony No. 3 in F minor, "Irish", op. 28
47Quoted in Ibid., 123.
18 Quoted in Ibid., 123.
"9 The critic records that the late comers probably did not have "the slightest wish to hear Dr. Stanford's
new work." The main attraction for the majority of the audience members was the subsequent performance
of Gonoud's work. "The Glouchester Music Festival," The Musical Times 24 (October 1883): 543.
" Ibid., 543.
In September of 1886, Stanford and his wife went to Switzerland and northern
Italy for a holiday after the Birmingham festival.5 After a three-week stay, they
detoured to Vienna to visit Hans Richter before returning to England. The conductor,
who recently received a doctorate from Oxford, was planning to perform Stanford's
Elegiac Ode in Vienna. Stanford also paid a visit to Brahms, apparently without making
an appointment. The composer recalls the following from his visit:
When I next visited Vienna I went to see him .. thinking that I should
surely find him at home at eleven o' clock. But his housekeeper told me
that he had just gone to dinner. I was so astonished that I said to her, "In
Heaven's name, what time does Brahms eat his breakfast?" "At five," said
the dame; "he does all of his work before eleven, and is out the rest of the
day." However, I fell in with him later, and sat with him through the
rehearsal of Gluck' s Alceste at the Opera House, over which he waxed
English audiences were no stranger to Brahms's music; his C minor Symphony "attracted
almost every musician of importance in England"53 and his later symphonies met with
enthusiasm in London during the 1880s.54 Brahms's Fourth Symphony earned its
premiere in Meiningen on 25 October 1885. News of the work's monumental power and
musical poetry no doubt fell on English ears. When Richter conducted the English
premiere of the work on 10 May 1886, an enthusiastic Stanford began sketching a new
symphony, the so-called "Irish" in F minor. Richter took interest in this new project
from the composer' s pen and commissioned the work for his 1887 concert season.5
Stanford completed the work in 1887 and it was quickly published as op. 28, the
first of the composer' s symphonies to earn a number. The use of Irish folk songs, which
is central to this work, was not uncommon in Stanford's oeuvre.
5Dibble, op. cit., 171.
52 Stanford, Studies and Memories, 113.
53 Ibid., 111.
54 Dibble, op. cit., 182.
" Ibid., 171.
With the "Irish" Symphony, Stanford earned an international reputation. It
received performances all over England. In Germany, Builow conducted the work in
Hamburg at the Stadttheater on 26 January 1888, and in Berlin a few weeks later.56 The
success of Stanford's work earned his Fourth Symphony a place on the Berlin programme
the following year. The "Irish" Symphony was chosen for the opening concert of the
new Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam on 3 November 1888, conducted by Willem
Kes.57 In North America, the work was performed by Walter Damrosch and the New
York Symphony Orchestra at Camegie Hall in November 1907. Richard Aldrich of The
New York Times provided the following sentiment:
Of this music Stanford' s is the most interesting and a welcome addition to
program lists that are apt to become stereotyped. It still retains its
freshness and spirit--not that it is very old in years, but music is the least
immortal of artistic productions, and some modem symphonies have
wrinkled with age in fifteen years. It is not great music nor wholly original
in style, but it is charming, of sustained interest and made with such
dexterity and skill in the manipulation of its material.5
The "lrish Symphony reached the zenith of its North American success with Mahler' s
interpretation of the work with the New York Philharmonic in 1910.
In England, Alexander Mackenzie59 revived the work for a Philharmonic concert in
June 1893, which ignited interest throughout the country. One particular voice, though
not especially enthusiastic about Stanford's work,oo was that of George Bemard Shaw,
who points out an internal struggle between Stanford the Celt and Stanford the professor.
56 Stanford, Unwritten Diary, 262.
57Dibble, op. cit., 184.
"8Richard Aldrich, Neil\ York Symphony Orchestra, Walter Damrosch, Edward German, Rudolph Ganz,
The New York Times (18 November 1907). Also printed in Richard Aldrich, Concert Life in New York
1902-1923, ed. by Harold Johnson (Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1941), 193-194.
5 Mackenzie succeeded Colven as conductor of of the Philharmonic Society.
"0 In a note in Pall Magazine (18 May 1888), the critic claims that "as for Mr. Villiers Stanford's Irish
Symphony, it is only an additional proof that the symphony, as a musical form, is stone dead." Shaw
also extended this sentiment to symphonies of Brahms and Dvor~k. Dan Lawrence, Bernard' Shaw:
Shaw 's Ahtsic: The Complete Ahtsical Criticism in 3 Volumes, I (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1981),
In the words of "corno di basseto," "when Professor Stanford is genteel, cultured, classic,
pious, and experimentally mixolydian, he is dull beyond belief."61 In addition, "although
in it ("Irish Symphony) you see the Irish professor trifling in a world of ideas, in a
marked contrast to the English professor conscientiously wrestling in a vacuum, yet over
and above this national difference, .. you find certain traces of a talent for composition,
which is precisely what the ordinary professor, with all his grammatical and historical
accomplishments, utterly lacks."o2 Yet, while Shaw' s musical xenophobia pervaded the
newspaper columns each week, it is instructive to note that the "Irish Symphony is
Stanford's first attempt at blending Irish national elements within the context of German
The "Irish Symphony is cast in the following four-movement layout: I) Allegro
moderato; II) Allegro molto vivace; III) Andante con motor; IV) Finale. Allegro moderato
At the head of the score, Stanford inscribes the following motto in Latin:
IPSE FAVE CLEMENS PATRIZE PATRIAMQUE CANENTI, PHOEBE,
CORONATA QUI CANIS IPSE LYRA
In the English, the motto reads, "Look with favour and mercy on the country and on the
country's bard, Phoebus, who yourself sing with crowned lyre."o3 The first movement,
which is cast in sonata form, opens with all strings, except the double bass, in chant-like
Example 1. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, I.
61George Bernard Shaw, "Going Fantee," The World (10 May 1893). Also printed in Lawrence, Bernard
Shaw II, 876.
6 Ibid., 877.
63 In Greek mythology, Phoebus means, literary, "radiant one" because of the connection with the sun.
The name was used as an epithet of Apollo by the Romans, who hailed him as Phoebus Apollo.
Wh ie th phyga yerig sals n"acet n etcsunsbl hrsi h
woodwinds and brass~ pun trruate r'~ th etre, esalsigtecaaceitcdvlp et
of German~ sym hoifomThtrniincmrssteoeigCDfa-mtven
boh eldc ndhamni etepises theC musi grw ou fthsmtvi em
Seerl colrshaenoedthtStnfr lerne tis techniqu rmBamtog ti
possible~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ tha Kilitoue h dat i seal s17.Frti rtrti
Wi The secogind themeemergestas in the cello i an diatoic cauntail theme inrd A n fat
maor, indicatng thats pucuthe Iri hma is te shiingaga in. h hrceitcdvlpet
o Exma smpleni 2. m Sym hon No. 3 itn F minrse I. pnn fa- oie
Aostesecond themKel irdraws toe a loea develom enarly closing sethion emerge, iThe
seondou themoe is fragmented and presen tedu in canonr in the middle stringsd at tesam time
the fluesand clariet pmerformi the frgento in meldianc inversion. Them hons prvd the
ma rhythmicatn iptus wthe asries of tipes that outgine h udmnnt oiat n
Example 3. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, I.
Thdveopenscto exlit alos enirl th opein moiv invriu
meoic aroic n ryhmctrnfomton.Inte oloigexmle hemtiei
present ith basons clli an dobl basse whil th fues clrntsanupe
stins resn ti neso.Sanodoc gi mly teBamintcnqeo
Stanfod aloelipes n sequetial epaottrs tlos peentil the oie oeing various hamn aic
guises throughout the development. The Irish element is, arguably, most reticent in this
section of the movement. It is pulled apart, rearranged, and reshaped under the Teutonic
knife. Before the development draws to a close, Stanford harkens back to the Irish
melody by presenting portions of the restored second theme in the cello in A maj or. A
solo clarinet, oboe and tutti upper strings answer the call.
At the helm of the recapitulation, Stanford rescores the opening folk-like theme
for oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and violas. Subsequently, the second theme is presented
by a solo clarinet, indicating that Stanford was conscious about spreading the thematic
wealth throughout the orchestra; in this case, he provides a timbral balance between the
strings at the opening of the movement, and the woodwinds in the concluding section.
The opening motive returns in a brief developmental passage at the close of the second
theme and, economically, in the bass line throughout the coda. The movement concludes
with soft F maj or chords.
The second movement comprises a Scherzo and Trio in D minor. The opening
theme, in 9/8 meter, is reminiscent of an Irish jig. Stanford adds to the ethnic sound by
assigning the melody to the violins while the remaining strings provide support with
pizzicato chords, providing the melody with a a flavor of Irish fiddling.
Example 5. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, II.
The scherzo climaxes with the full orchestra exploiting the jig melody, either in whole or
in fragments. The trio section in D major, features a pastoral-style melody in 3/2 meter.
Here, the sparse instrumentation of clarinets, bassoons, and third and fourth horns offers
a calm moment of departure. The lower strings provide a steady bass line comprising a
descending major third, F sharp-D, interchangeably between violas and celli. The lack
of prominent middle voices at this juncture adds to the pastoral quality of the music, akin
to such treatment in Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.
Example 6. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, II.
The scherzo reurns "in io nisoiia us.T ocuetemvmnSafr
includes a brief, quasi-fanfare in D major.
In his 1921 catalogue of the composer' s works, John F. Porte claims that the third
movement is "one of the most poignantly expressive things Stanford ever composed."64
The movement commences with a solo harp outlining a B flat seventh chord, which,
according to Fuller-Maitland, is rooted in Irish national music called "Try if it' s in
tune."65 The New York Times critic Richard Aldrich refers to this passage as "the harp of
Example 7. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, III.
The~b thm mresi h lrint and suseunty in the ftsmldcalnetd
Ase them har cotines i tse carpneggis n, sbeunl the thm i ramntdito a passdingl seunce of
rsectively. Stnfr briefly abndons tis sighingr moieoinrdueante
6 oh F PreSi (I, ..* ilirsStnfr (oson Lnwod res 178- 4
6 uler-Mitan. heMuicofParyan Sanor: 4n -- Evsa inCmprtveCitc
(Cambridge:~I W.- Hefrad os 93) 0
6 Haold ohnon, d., p. it.,193
fragment, which comprises a triplet rhythm. These two motivic cells are presented in
sequence, often overlapping, in the strings and woodwinds. The music suddenly shifts to
D maj or, whereupon Stanford includes a quotation of the folk song "Lament of the Sons
of Usnacht" in the viola.
Example 9. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, III.
Stanford claims to have borrowed the tune from the folk song manuscripts of Petrie,
which the composer edited; however, the tune also bears resemblance to the opening
theme to the second movement of Brahms's Fourth Symphony.
Example 10. Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, II.
Though he was well aware of this, Stanford claimed that the likeness was merely an
accident and that the two symphonies were composed at the same time.o' Recent
scholarship has shown, however, that Stanford's slow movement bears the completion
date 4 April 1887.os Furthermore, Brahms's Fourth Symphony made its English
premiere almost one year prior. For this writer, it is possible that Stanford transformed
the folk song, either consciously or subconsciously, into its Brahmsian dopelganger. For
example, Stanford' s initial use of the fragment is not a complete statement of Brahms's
theme in that it encompasses a maj or third, A-B-C sharp. Brahms' s version consists of a
67 Stanford, Pages from an Unwritten Diary, 262.
68 Dibble, op. cit., 185.
phrygian minor third, E-F-G. However, the not-so-subtle Irishman quotes the fragment
again, this time with a solo French horn in F using the phrygian minor third, transposed as
F-G flat-A flat, too similar to Brahms's theme to be a mere coincidence.
Example 11. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, III.
Stanford also develops this motive melodically with the French horns, though not in the
same fashion as Brahms did previously.
Example 12. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, III.
Likewise, the climax of the movement involves the "Usnacht"/ Brahms motive proj ected
by the full orchestra.
Example 13. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, III.
a, r .~
I I sr~
In these cases, the motive is intervalically parallel to Brahms's theme; however, Stanford
employs it much more literally, placing it in the fore of the surrounding musical
development. As the movement draws to a close, the harp returns as in the beginning.
In the F-minor finale, Stanford also quotes literal folk melodies. The first, which
serves as the principal theme of the movement' s sonata form, is "Molly McAlpin" or
"Remember the Glories of Brian the Brave", presented by the violas in a low tessitura.
Example 14. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, IV.
This modal theme is repeated three times with increasingly generous orchestration. As
Dibble points out, the opening sonorities of this movement seem to foreshadow the
native English sounds of Holst and Vaughan Williams.69 The upper strings, bassoons, and
first French horn interj ect the second theme in A flat into the texture which also serves as
a catalyst for Stanford's developmental transitions.
Example 15. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, IV.
The third theme, in A major, comprises the folk song "Let Erin Remember the
Days of Old," and is presented in the French horns. The composer interpolates this
theme in the center of the development section.
Example 16. Symphony No. 3 in F minor, IV.
It is instructive;ul to r illusrat that hsmvmntsdvlpen eto vovsfo h
meode themelve asasrn fdfnd e ra.Safr alw h oglk
Itrasnsformation from il aeigth ntst t triplt.Olywth movement'ssdvlpetseto v e p rimar them
does Stanford utilize sequence patterns and the idea of traditional harmonic instability for
development. The full orchestra initiates the recapitulation with a statement of the
primary theme. The second and third themes are subsequently restated and the
movement draws to a formal close, complete with hemiola patterns, tutti string tremolos,
and cadential repeated chords a la Beethoven.
Stanford undoubtedly won recognition for his "Irish Symphony because of its
ability to effectively combine both formal and exotic elements. The work also provided a
stimulus for Irish composers who sought to formulate a national musical voice of their
own by using folk melodies. The composers Esposito and Harty produced prize winning
"Irish symphonies in 1902 and 1904 respectively for the Feis Ceoil in Dublin.'" For
Stanford the Professor, the music is essentially well crafted and incorporates all elements
of Classical-Romantic symphonic tradition. For Stanford the Irishman, the folk melodies
offer a unique point of departure and, in several instances, serves to create the symphonic
content of the work. But for Stanford the Victorian, it is the blending of these two
elements that gives the work its unique character.
Symphony No. 4 in F major, op. 31
In the summer months following the premiere of the "Irish" Symphony, opera
occupied the composer' s mind. His one-act opera The M~iner ofFalun was completed by
1888, though it never received a performance or publication. His incidental music for
Sophocles's play Oedipus tyrannus received its premiere in Cambridge at the Theatre
Royal on 1 December 1887. Most of the work on Stanford's Fourth Symphony in F
major was completed in Cambridge in June and July of 1888.7 The manuscript of the
finale bears the date 31 July; Stanford, thus, completed the work during a family visit in
Dublin.72 The composer intended for the work to be premiered in Berlin in January 1889,
"0 The Feis Ceoil was founded in 1897 by Anne Patterson, in part, to encourage native Irish composers to
write works based on Irish folk music. With the success of his "Irish" Symphony, Stanford inevitably
became the organization's "poster boy." Ibid., 185.
"1 Dibble states that work on the symphony may have begun as early as summer of 1887, interrupting his
work on The Miner ofFalun. Ibid., 198.
72 The 1880s in Ireland were perilous times. In the early decade, the Phoenix Park murders took place, in
which the Chief Secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and his compatriot T. H Burke were killed. The
crime left many established social authorities, including several members of Stanford's family, feeling
uneasy about security. Ibid., 201.
as Biilow had promised. Along with the symphony, Stanford planned to include his song
La Belle Dame sans merci (1877) to the text of Keats, which he recently orchestrated for
a concert at the Royal College of Music. Furthermore, the composer intended for some of
his folk song orchestrations and his highly nationalistic work, Festival Overture "The
Queen of the Seas" in C maj or to be performed at the concert as well. Although there is
no prevailing theory as to why Stanford choose to flood the Berlin concert with overtly
Irish works, it is possible to make a conj ecture. In light of his previous success with his
"Irish Symphony, it is likely that Stanford wanted to continue to feed the
German' sappetite for the exotic elements of Irish folk music.
The concert took place in the Grasser Saal der Philharmonic in Berlin on 14
January 1889. The reviews were favorable. The German periodical, BIt \1on Courier,
declared the following:
The principal feature of last night's concert was an unpublishedsymphony, the
latest work of the composer. The subjects, which are well defined, have been
worked out with extraordinary skill, and the whole effect of this very remarkable
piece of writing is clear and sonorous .. 7
The Kreuz Zeitung was even more ecstatic:
The compositions of Dr. Villiers Stanford have taken us altogether by
surprise. We did not expect such mature work from a man who has not
yet left his youth behind him, and there is real ground for astonishment in
his powerful handling of larger forms and masses .. He never loses the
thread, he never helps himself out with mere patchwork, as is the way
with so many of "The Modern School" when their inspiration fails
them: he never for an instant indulges in commonplace.7
The Berliner Reichsbote was equally enthusiastic:
It is seldom indeed that an Englishman is energetic enough to free
himself-as Mr. Stanford has happily succeeded in doing--from national
idiosyncrasies and the love of peculiarity, for the sake of a more refined
7 Professor Stanford in Berlin," The Ahtsical Times 30 (March 1889), 153. In Dibble, ( IR, /. V illiers
Stanford, 203, the author also quotes from this review; however, there is a misprint in footnotes 43 and
44, which date the review as March 1888.
74The Ahtsical Times 30, 153.
ideal and the wider development of his artistic personality. We already
had proof of this when the composer made his debut in the Hall of the
Philharmonic Society a year ago with the "Irish Symphony. but last
night' s programme sets him in the front rank of the composers of our
day. .. The principal work performed was Mr. Stanford's new
symphony in F major. All four parts compel the attention of the hearer to
the development of the themes and the gracefulness of the melody, bu the
first and fourth are especially remarkable for these qualities. Few
composers attain such delicacy and transparency of instrumentation.5
Obviously for Stanford, these favorable reviews catapulted the composer into an
international arena, a position that few English composers attained prior to Stanford's
lifetime. o Britain's musical powers were "about to come of age"7 and the Irish-born
Stanford stood at the helm of progress.
Stanford' s original score contained the following inscription: "Thro' Youth to
Strife, Thro' Death to Life," followed by a quotation of lines from Part II of Goethe' s
Faust written on the first page of the score:
Nur der verdient sich Freiheit wie das Leben,
Der taglich sie erobern muss.
Und so verbringt, umrungen von Gefahr,
Hier Kindheit, Mann und Greis sein ttichtig Jahr.
In English, the text reads:
Liberty only earns itself like life
That daily it must conquer
And so passes, surrounded by danger,
Here childhood, man, and old man their efficient year.'
The composer evidently intended the work to fit a programmatic scheme; although, he
later crossed out the inscriptions because they may "constrain the work's musical
7 Ibid., 153-154.
76 Of these, William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) and Henry Hugo Pierson (Pearson) (1815-1873)
achieved notoriety in Leipzig. Stanford's contemporaries, H. Hubert Parry and Edward Elgar, both
achieved international status as composers.
77Dibble, op. cit., 203.
78This quotation comprises lines 11575-11578. Quoted in Ibid., 204; my translation.
rationale." 79 The movement titles of the symphony appear as follows: I) Allegro vivace
e gioioso; II) Intermezzo Allegretto agitate (ma moderato in tempo) Tranquilo ma
l'istesso tempo; III) Andante molto moderato; IV) Finale Allegro non troppo.
The first movement, in sonata form, begins with a jolly theme in the first violins,
which is subsequently subj ected to motivic development.
Example 17. Symphony No. 4 in F major, I.
Example 18~r. SypoyN.4in aoI
19 Ibid 204.
This song-like theme is accompanied by a rhythmic antecedent, which the composer uses
later as a developmental melodic cell. The clarinets present the following example:
Example 19. Symphony No. 4 in F major, I.
It has been suggested that Stanford borrowed this theme from Brahms' s Liebeslieder
Walzer, op. 52."0 Although they are not exactly similar in melody, the first piece of the
Brahms work, Rede, Mtidchen, allzu liebes, and Stanford' s theme are alike in rhythm and
texture. The antecedent motive appears at the helm of the development section in a
dovetail fashion, with solo flute, oboe, clarinet, and first horn in each succeeding measure.
As in the "lrish Symphony, Stanford incorporates numerous developmental techniques,
such as stacking motives (the ascending quarter-note motive of the primary theme),
sequential patterns, and canonic episodes based on thematic material.
Example 20. Symphony No. 4 in F major, I.
The composer further displays his prowess in exploring foreign keys by exuding the more
foreign tonal terrain of D maj or, E maj or, and D flat major in the development section. It
is likely, then, that Stanford's initial transition foreshadowed the events in the
development section. At the height of the musical drama, the full orchestra states the
primary theme, initiating the recapitulation.
Example 21. Symphony No. 4 in F major, I.
Stanford subsequently includes a surprise by placing the first statement of the second
Stanford's initial sparse scoring for the theme eventually gives way to series of
developing variations and hemiola techniques. The texture is thickest in the upper register
of the orchestral pallet; flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons (in tenor clef), and upper strings
form a dense cloud of phrygian-flavored melody over a pizzicato bass line. As Dibble
-r: t-- --
--i--. I ,=- -- I ~-~ c~-r--
r I ~u
theme in A maj or. An additional surprise is featured in the coda as the second theme
gradually accelerates to a one-beat-per-bar tempo in the style of a Viennese waltz. The
movement concludes in this manner.
The title of the second movement, in itself, has Brahmsian overtones. Stanford
utilizes material from the Entr' acte of his incidental music to Oedipus tyramzus. The main
theme, according to Dibble, is identical to its counterpart. The clarinet presents the theme
in the following example:
Example 22. Symphony No. 4 in F major, II.
J'pr~ i~b CnTE~~RMEZZO.y~
IsU j, ~
IIIc C~ lo I
points out, this technique is not particularly Brahmsian as it is a specifically English
Example 23. Symphony No. 4 in F major, II.
The second theme of the Intermezzo falls in a distinctly English style; in this instance, the
strings perform a hymn-like theme in which the first violin and cello move,
predominantly, in contrary thirds. Furthermore, this theme bears no resemblance to
Stanford's Oedipus score. The primary theme returns to close the movement.
In a letter to Joachim, Stanford stated the following:
" Ibid., 205.
I dare say you will be amused at the new symphony. I have written a
recitative for the whole band in the slow movement which is an amusing
As the most extended movement in the work, the composer with a theme, which
he treats fugally.
Example 24. Symphony No. 4 in F major, III.
I I C
------I r ---- c
I r -1.-
P~G:I~ IICr~SF Jbfil;i ~2ri~
" ~ G~+-
82 Letter from Stanford to Joachim, 20 July 1888. Quoted in Ibid.
Timpgrli in E.D,.A.
Folwn th nrdcini uea ac nDmnrsae oeyi h is iln
agloitated e acopnimenut in isa ue march syewie th wioodwintd so hihigh the harmtvolnic
scheme with soft chords.
Example 25. Symphony No. 4 in F major, III.
The ebb and flow of operatic rhetoric and contrasts of key between the tonic (D minor)
and its parallel maj or fill the remainder of the movement. Near the end, the lower horns
and trumpet, both in D, sound an augmented version of the primary theme of the finale.
Example 26. Symphony No. 4 in F major, III.
The finale, in sonata-rondo form, is a formidable apotheosis to the symphony in
which virtue triumphs. Stanford's careful attention to contrasting keys is displayed once
and for all as he pits the tonic F maj or against sudden shifts to D-flat maj or, A-flat maj or,
and G-flat maj or throughout the movement. However, the main theme,a j ocular diatonic
theme in the tonic key, acts as a ritornello and serves to bring the combatant tonicizations
back to common ground. This example demonstrates the movement' s main theme in the
Example 27. Symphony No. 4 in F major, IV.
Th seodtee nCmjr, copie sedn nddsedn rego
which, in turn, are fragmented and transformed into driving eighth-note rhythms.
The full orchestra provides punctuated chords to accompany the thematic
transformation. The development section treats the primary theme to
fragmentation, inversion, and canon between strings, woodwinds, and brass.
Stanford interrupts the motivic interplay with a string of orchestral fanfares in
foreign keys. The primary theme/ ritornello returns in the tonic, though it is
slightly altered in rhythm from eighth notes to quarter-note triplets.
Example 28. Symphony No. 4 in F major, IV.
The second theme returns in D flat and, upon completion, a Beethovenian coda
enters, in which Stanford's use of contrapuntal textures are juxtaposed to a
fragment of the primary theme. It is never stated again in its entirety. An
orchestral fanfare brings the movement, and the symphony, to a close in F maj or.
The work received praise for its first and fourth movements, clear examples of
Stanford's ability to manipulate high-German symphonic virtues. The symphony did
not, however, receive as much international attention as did the "Irish. The innovative
features of this work, though not revolutionary, showcase specific "Stanfordian" features
within a symphony that otherwise possesses the melodic character and clarity of
Mendelssohn's oeuvre. It is also worth noting that, despite his last minute editing, the
literary inscriptions provide the music with a narrative element. The four words, "Youth,
Strife, Death, Life", and Goethe's excerpt fit well with the dramatic and developmental
aspects of the music.
Symphony No. 5 in D major, op. 56, "L'Allegro ed il Pensieroso"
In the years following the Fourth Symphony, Stanford filled his creative time with
various large and small-scale works. He penned an oratorio, Eden, in 1891 for solo
voices, chorus, and orchestra; a~a~ss in G for similar forces in 1893; and an ode for
chorus and orchestra, Ea~st to West, the same year. For the stage, the composer provided
incidental music for Alfred, Lord Tennyson's play Becket and a lyric drama Lorenza in
1893; the latter never received performance or publication. Stanford was also busy
writing chamber music. His first two string quartets, in G maj or and A minor
respectively, were completed in 1891. The 6 Irish Fantasies,~~FFF~~~FF~~~FF op. 54 for violin and piano
appeared two years later, indicating the composer's continued interest in the Celtic
Stanford was, by this time, reaping the fame of his "Irish Symphony.
Encouraged by his success and the increasing stimulation of orchestral music in London,83
Stanford returned to the symphonic genre once again to compose his Fifth Symphony in
D major. The work was composed in late May and June of 1894, along with other
creations. The composer was working on two smaller works simultaneously, the
unpublished Concert Pieces for piano and the Fantasia and Toccata for organ. John
Milton' s 1645 poem L 'Allegro edll Penseroso was Stanford' s ultimate point of
departure in writing the symphony. Stanford, clearly intending for the work to illustrate
83 TchaikoVslw's Ii-in.rl~s. "lll-) Symphony was performed at the Philharmonic Society. Ibid., 260.
Milton's poem,84 appended select quotations to the beginning of each movement in the
score and subtitled the symphony the same as Milton's opus.85
The tempo indications for each movement appears as follows: I) Allegro
moderato; II) Allegro grazioso; III) Andante molto tranquillo; IV) Allegro molto.
The first movement' s literary incipit comprises two excerpts from the first part of
Milton's poem, L 'Allegro:
Hence, loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest midnight born
In Stygian cave forlorn
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks and sighs unholy
Find out some uncouth cell.
When brooding Darkness spreads his j ealous wings,
And the night-raven sings;
There under ebon shades and low-browed rocks,
As ragged as thy locks
In dark Cimmerian desert even dwell.
But come thou Goddess fair and free,
In heaven yclept Euphrosyne,
And by man, heart easing Mirth;86
Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful jollity,
Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and Becks and wreathed smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides,
Come and trip it as you go,
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain-nymph, sweet liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew."'
84 In the programme at the first performance, Stanford inscribed that the symphony was indeed "intended to
illustrate the poem of John Milton." See Ibid.
"5 Stanford spells the subtitle L 'Allegro ed il Pensieroso in the score.
86 Lines 1-13.
"7 Lines 25-38.
The first lines of the poem ring in tune with the symphony's introduction, a stately
fanfare in D minor which eventually resolves to the tonic major. Although it is food for
subsequent development, the introductory motive returns frequently throughout the
movement' s sonata form to provide congenial unity.
Example 29. Symphony No. 5 in D major, I.
~llc~rl~ ~3FAlcr(lfR~ I.
b~ ,- --.
rrr P -~ ~ ~--~C_~F-~f' ~Tr ~2----~
a._f- .d --
L~lr carl~l is ~
trremLR L O.
The first theme is presented in the clarinet in A and first bassoon; four measures later, it
is answered by oboes and third and lower horns a fifth higher. The theme, in turn, is
passed around the ensemble in fragments and in dovetail fashion.
Example 30. Symphony No. 5 in D major, I.
Similar in character and melodic contour is the second theme, presented in the dominant
Example 31. Symphony No. 5 in D major, I.
Theacomaningmsct ohtee ad lpat unngcaatr hc em
tob n prprae i o ltrlfttoteopnn lnsofteseodexep o h
poe. Te mvemntas whlepiti Mito's wod,"elnhl" gis
"Mith" howver itC istelatro tetovite ha egs speeinteed
The ~ ~ ~ I- seodmvmn chroadTi sa atrl fsrt htehe h
Thracoupnigh h huigh wo odh tehin adshrill." at unn hratr hc e
" Lloines 53-56. frmL Aleg
While the ploughmen, near at hand,
Whistles o'er the furrow'd land,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale.89
Sometimes with secure delight
The upland hamlets will invite,
When the merry bells ring round,
And the joeund rebecks sound
To many a youth and marry a maid,
Dancing in the chequer'd shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sun-shine holy-day,
Till the live-long day-light fail:
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How faery Mab the junkets eat;90
These delights if thou canst give,
Mirth, with thee I mean to live.91
The opening combination of G and D in the bassoons and cellos creates a rustic
atmosphere upon which the French horns, in thirds, sound a hunting call. Clarinets,
flutes, and strings in turn answer the horns.
Example 32. Symphony No. 5 in D major, II.
89 Lines 63-68.
90 Lines 91-102.
91 Lines 151-152.
The occasional scotch-snap rhythm in the bass line, in 6/8 meter, eventually gives way to
the duple-meter Trio, where the violins drive the music with a continuous stream of
sixteenth notes. In following Milton's text, the Trio is indicative of the peasant' s
merrymaking. The Trio theme, in E-flat major, is an irregular, five-bar-phrase that is
subsequently presented in canons at the unison and fifth.
Example 33. Symphony No. 5 in D major, II.
Exapl 3 t-Fr c Symphon No 5 inl~ D ~ rl maor II.
Milton's IlPerseroso appends the remaining movements. Pensive and full of
melancholy, the third movement, in B-flat maj or, is the heart and soul of the work; in
fact, it is the most lyrical movement in any of Stanford's symphonies for its song-like
melodies, expressive use of instrumental ranges, and dramatic pauses. Stanford uses the
following excerpts as a backdrop for the movement's tone-poem euphoria:
But hail, thou goddess sage and holy,
Hail, divinest Melancholy!i
Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And therefore to our weaker view
O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue;"
Come, pensive nun, devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure,
All in a robe of darkest grain
Flowing with maj estic train,
And sable stole of cypress lawn
Over thy decent shoulders drawn:
Come, but keep thy wonted state,
With even step, and musing gait,
And looks commercing with the skies,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:03
But first, and chiefest, with thee bring
Him that yon soars on golden wing
Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne,
The cherub Contemplati6n;
And the mute Silence hist along,
'Less Philomel will deign a song
In her sweetest saddest plight,""
-Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chautress, oft the woods among
I woo, to hear thy even-song;
And missing thee, I walk unseen
On the dry smooth shaven green,
92 Lines 11-16.
93 Lines 31-40.
"4 Lines 51-57.
To behold the wandering Moon
Riding near her highest noon,95
The hymn-like opening theme is the catalyst for the composer' s subtle variations,
namely augmentation, which pervade the movement.
Example 35. Symphony No. 5 in D major, III.
Stanford also bases variations on the second theme, a mere fragment of a melody
presented by soli violas.
Example 36. Symphony No. 5 in D major, III.
To evoke further pastorale images, solo clarinet and flute provide the flippant, chirping
birdsong of the nightingale (Philomel).
95 Lines 61-68.
Example 37. Symphony No. 5 in D major, III.
The true genius of the work, however, is the ebb and flow of these elements within the
orchestral timbre; the constant shift between thick and thin orchestration provides, above
all, the emotional denuement of the movement.
The final movement, an aptly named "big-boned sonata rondo," 9o portrays the
remaining lines of Milton' s poem. The following excerpts resonate throughout the music,
providing a haunting apotheosis to both the symphony and poetic imagery:
Oft, on a plat of rising ground
I hear the far-off curfew sound
Over some wide-water' d shore,
Swinging slow with sullen roar:"
Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
In scepter'd pall come sweeping by
Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,
Or the tale of Troy divine;""
And, as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen Genius of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister's pale,
And love the high-enbowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight
Casting a dim religious light:
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full-voiced quire below
In service high and anthem clear,
"6 Dibble, op. cit., 261.
97 Lines 73-76.
"8 Lines 97-100
99 Lines 151-166.
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.99
Following the opening horn calls, the first violins and viola present the D-minor rondo
theme over pesante chords in lower winds and strings.
Example 38. Symphony No. 5 in D major, IV.
A cantabile second theme in the relative maj or invokes Milton' s reference to the
all-encompassing sweet music; the violas initially state the theme before it is carried
above, around, and underneath the texture by flutes and tutti first violins.
Example 39. Symphony No. 5 in D major, IV.
~C ,11 1~311
413 BkMP"I Un prrcwl urassu
The development encapsulates Stanford's usual schooled techniques; however, the crux of
its purpose is to illustrate the poem's third stanza. With the second theme as the
primary tool, the development section comprises the ebb and flow of thick and thin
orchestral textures to, once again, symbolize the divine sweet music. The recapitulation
begins with a restatement of the second theme in the tonic major. Before the return of the
main theme, Stanford inserts a transitional passage for the organ which, along with the
horns and flutes, evoke the poetic anthem of Milton' s verse. The third movement' s
somber theme returns in an ethereal adagio to conclude the work.
Example 40. Symphony No. 5 in D major, IV.
The Philhrmoni Soit rmee h it Smhn n2 ac 85a
Que' al.Safr hmefcndce h or n ate lokpefre h
intgra ora atfo eiwoeal eefvrbe lhuhfrkoldeo h
inded tihey wnish to passas miered reorer oift impressi os. But warhile5
reevngdfntegrlognpr." opvinios, ovraegrdigte sympbl, lhony s whor ole, we may th
wr sa emntha a large patof it appealedito n'eseo aifctob h
chasirm an prority of ther themes, and sthdeir skllu pas erall as pictrsqu
'oo Dibble, op. cit., 262.
treatment .. Our feeling is that the symphony will largely improve
upon acquaintance and take its place among Mr. Stanford's best works.'"
The composer dedicated the work to the Philharmonic Society and its then
conductor, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and it earned further performances in
Manchester and Berlin in December of the same year. However, due to a lack of
public interest, the symphony was not published until 1923 by Carnegie Trust;
thus, the score was revised and Stanford' s original dedication was removed.'"
The Fifth Symphony stands as Stanford's most expressive symphonic works,
reaching a Mahleresque level of pageantry. Yet, it should not be dismissed as cheap
romanticism. Stanford' s use of the John Milton poem ought to satisfy, in part, the
nationalist urges of contemporary criticism; however, it is abundantly clear that, through
selection, the chosen excerpts bend towards a distinctly romantic persona. It is this
writer' s opinion that the work, more so than the prior symphonies, places Stanford as a
master of dramatic musical form, where themes and orchestration meld perfectly with the
programmatic oeuvre. The work, as the critic states, deserves to be heard again; however,
since the composer's death, only silence resounds from a library shelf.
Symphony No. 6 in E flat major, op. 94
Stanford's next symphony came ten years after his mild success with the Fifth
Symphony. He was, however, no stranger to orchestral writing at the time, completing
two of the six Irish Rhapsodies, piano, violin, and clarinet concertos, and a set of
variations on an English theme "Down among the dead men." Like his 1896-1897
Requiem in memory of the artist Lord Leighton, the Sixth Symphony was written as a
memorial to artist and sculptor George Frederick Watts (1817-1904). The composer was
a great admirer of Watt' s works for his "ability to capture timelessness and and
1o' "Philharmonic Society," Musical Times 36 (April 1895), 233.
'02 Dibble, op. cit., 262.
transcendent actuality"103 in a time when political change and new scientific discoveries
were all the rage. Stanford composed the work in May and June of 1905. The movement
titles consist of the following: I) Allegro con brio; II) Adagio e molto espressivo; III)
Scherzo and Trio (Presto); IV) Moderato e Maestoso.
The newly formed London Symphony Orchestra, under Stanford's baton,
gave the work's premiere on 18 January 1906 to favorable reviews:
.. So clear is the form of the various movements, so straightforward the
developments of the thematic material, that the work may be fully
appreciated quite apart from the source or sources whence the composer
sought inspiration. There are many modern works in which the form is so
absolutely determined by what is known as the "poetic basis," the
knowledge more or less of the latter is indispensable. In the case of the
symphony under notice such knowledge, however, is decidedly
The work received a second performance one year later at Bournemouth,o'0 but then
quickly fell into oblivion. In February 1923, however, the work was brought back for a
concert in Guilford by the Guilford Symphony Orchestra under direction of Claude
Powell. The composer' s fourth Irish Rhapsody (1913) and Sea Songs (1904) made the
program as well.'oo The Sixth Symphony suffered an even greater fate than the Fifth;
although it received positive reviews, it failed to gain subsequent performances at home
and abroad. It seems that as Stanford's symphonic persona sought further artistic depths
within a traditional style, the less it appealed to audiences who craved the revolutionary
sounds of post-Wagner Europe. The same fate struck Stanford's Serenade (Nonet) of
190510- and his fourth string quartet of 1906. As of this writing, these works and the
'03 Dibble, op. cit., 362.
'04 "London Symphony Orchestra: Sir Charles Villiers Stanford's New Symphony," The Musical Times 47
(February 1906), 121.
1o' Lewis Foreman, op. cit., 12.
1o' Dibble, op. cit., 456.
1o' The Serenade was premiered at Aeolian Hall on 25 January 1906 and, though it earned the critic's
favor, it failed to attract a publisher's attention; even the virtuoso Joachim intervened to obtain attention in
Germany to no avail. See Ibid., 364.
Sixth Symphony remain unpublished.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 124
After his Sixth Symphony, Stanford's compositional output for orchestra waned
considerably. Between the years 1906 and 1912, he produced only two works for
military band, the Installation March in E flat (1908) and Three M~ilitary Marches (1908),
which remain unpublished, and two orchestral works, his Second Piano Concerto in C
minor (1911) and his Seventh Symphony in D minor (1911). The composer, however,
filled this lacuna with a plethora of new songs, chamber works, and sacred works as well
as incidental music to Lord Binyon' s Attila the Hun (1907).
Written in response to a commission for the centenary celebration of the
Philharmonic Society in 1912,'os Stanford's Seventh Symphony stands as an essay in
brevity, a monument to succinct, concentrated symphonic form at a time when the
large-scale orchestral monuments of Mahler and Elgar were all the rage. However,
Stanford's newfound symphonic concision was not intended as a personal statement; the
request of the commissioners asserted that the work was to last merely 20 minutes.109
The Seventh Symphony unites the four movements of traditional symphonic form into a
compressed time span without reverting to oversimplified compositional procedures.
The tempo markings of each movement, which are also indicative of a simpler style,
appear as follows: I) Allegro; II) Tempo di Minuetto; III) Variations and Finale:
Andante-Allegro giusto-Poco piu lento-Allegro maestoso (alla breve).
The first movement, cast into a conventional sonata form, comprises two simple
and equally-phrased themes. Tutti first violins initiate the first over soft tremolo strings
that do no more than outline the D minor harmony. As a simple two-measure theme, it is
1os Works by other native composers received premieres: Ronald, Hervey, Mackenzie, Davies, Dunhill,
Macpherson, and Parry. Ibid., 397; Cyril Erlich, First Philharmonic: A History of the Royal
Philharmonic Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 186.
109 The same held true for Parry's Symphonic Fantasia "l912",which was his contribution to the festival.
Dibble, op. cit., 397.
subsequently answered in the woodwinds in a series of developing variations soon after
its presentation. It is already apparent that the composer wastes no time with the work' s
Example 41. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, I.
The second theme, a folk-like melody, originates in D flat, the flat submediant of F maj or.
By continuing with his technique, the composer brings the theme home to the tonic in six
Example 42. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, I.
Clear, concise melodies and phrasing are the key features of this theme, elements Stanford
exploits in the ensuing development section. A variation of the first theme, stated by the
bassoon, initiates the recapitulation in D major. Only the second theme reappears in its
original guise, moving swiftly from B flat major to D minor. A substantial coda, complete
with further motivic development and brief fluctuations between D maj or and its parallel
minor, brings the movement to conclusion. Stanford' s control of thematic material and
their seemingly continuous variation provides the movement with a steady flow; all
elements, including the sections of the form itself, blend together, leaving their unique
The second movement blends minuet and trio, scherzo, and theme and variation
forms into a single unit. The principal theme, a stately minuet in B flat major, is initially
performed by the strings. Woodwind figures provide color to the waxing and waning of
the melodic line.
Example 43. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, II.
The first variation, in D flat maj or, comprises a rigid, staccato ostinato pattern in triple
meter accompanying a series of sweeping eighth notes in the upper strings. What evolves
is a continues hemiola pattern between the two elements.
Example 44. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, II.
The minuet theme returns in the third variation as a quick, scherzo-like entity in 6/8
meter. The next two variations allude to a formidable trio section, yet, stand alone for
their unique content. The first comprises the interchangeable use of both slow, cantabile
variation featuring clarinet and bassoon and a fast, sweeping, high-tessitura variation for
Example 45. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, II.
The second involves a sprightly, yet delicate affair in duple meter comprised of running
sixteenth notes in both upper woodwinds and strings.
Example 46. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, II.
Rounding out the minuet's allusion is the fifth variation, which is simply a restatement of
the second, scherzo-like variation. Stanford appends a succinct coda, the final testament
of the closing measures of the original minuet theme, to close the movement.
The final movement is actually a combination of two smaller movements, akin to
Tchaikovsky's Third Orchestral Suite and Piano Trio in A minor. The first half of the
movement is a set of open-ended variations in F maj or, in which an andante theme, stated
at the movement' s onset serves as the material for the mold.
Example 47. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
The first variation comprises a contraction of the theme into a steady stream of eighth
notes in the violins. Subsequently, clarinets, cellos, and basses follow with the new
melody in turn. The second variation derives its make up from the theme's stepwise,
descending maj or third, A-G-F, which is transposed as F-E flat-D flat. Sheer sonority
of harmony is the crux of this variation as the motive is sounded and held fast. The only
rhythm present derives from the occasional upward arpeggios in the cellos and bassoons,
an inverted cascade over the stationary winds and brass.
Example 48. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
The third and fourth variations, together, form an appropriate slow movement to the
work. Indeed, this section consists of the composer's most emotional music in the entire
symphony. A solo clarinet, marked dolce, begins the tranquil set over swaying triplet
accompaniment in the viola and cello. A flute also shares the theme before the fourth
variation emerges in G--flat major. Much of the variation features the brass section. At
the onset, chords in the trombones offer a backdrop for the string and woodwind
arpeggios. The full brass section culminates with a rising motivic sequence, which
crescendos into a powerful, yet simply orchestrated climax, marking the denudment of the
movement' s opening.
Example 49. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
The fifth variation is the most extended of the entire set, which comprises a rising motive
that develops organically into subsequent melodic material. A solo oboe states the first
incarnation of the motive in F-sharp minor.
Example 50. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
The latter part of the variation serves as a transition from the neapolitan minor to the
finale's D major. The remainder of the movement falls into a loose sonata form. The
primary theme, which is derived from the opening theme of the movement, assumes a
martial air and is boldly stated by the woodwinds and brass.
Example 51. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
An extended transition gives way to the second theme in A major, which shares its
likeness with the melody of the movement' s third variation.
Example 52. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
The development section features the primary theme from the first movement, stated in
full as if the composer were trying to rekindle an old memory.
Example 53. Symphony No. 7 in D minor, III.
This idea is then suppressed by the finale's primary theme, presented in dovetail
sequence by each instrument. The apparent lack of actual "development" in the
development section may seem puzzling at the first hearing; however, this writer
conj ectures that, in light of Stanford' s dominion over continuous development as a
technique, he simply did not need to repeat his methods at this point. The development
section, therefore, serves as an unambiguous reminder of where the music has been, and
where it shall inevitably return. It is no surprise, then, that the recapitulation only
harbors the full return of the second theme, in D maj or, and an extended developmental
coda, complete with frequent shifts of mode (C flat, D flat, G flat, A) and obsessive
attention to the motive of the finale' s primary theme. The work concludes with a simple
perfect-authentic cadence, a formidable apotheosis to the economy, fluidity, and
dexterity of the entire work.
The composer conducted the premiere at Queen's Hall on 22 February 1912. As
usual, the review was positive and Stanford was recalled numerous times during the
applause.no An anonymous critic for The M~usical Times proclaimed that:
In some respects the character of the Symphony was a surprise because so
simple and straightforward a composition was hardly expected in these
times, when a new orchestral work is so often a melancholy psychological
problem. Whilst listening to Sir Charles Stanford's music one could
imagine Mozart benignly approving. as the Symphony is practicable
for ordinary resources it will no doubt often be heard. ."'
"o "Philharmonic Society," The Musical Times 53 (1 April 1912), 257.
The critic was right, for Elgar conducted the work in a London Symphony Orchestra
concert at Cambridge. The Beecham Symphony Orchestra, under direction of Thomas
Beecham, performed the work at Queen' s Hall in June of the following year. Dan
Godfrey admired the work and had it performed at Bournemouth in May 1914. The
Seventh Symphony was published in 1912 by Stainer and Bell, which made it readily
accessible both at home and abroad." Indeed, an American premiere of the symphony
almost took place. Horatio Parker of Yale University took interest in the work and
suggested it to Carl Muck, then conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A
concert was staged for the summer of 1915. Stanford planned to come to the United
States to conduct his symphony and receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University,
a degree voted to him in 1903. However, the composer' s travel plans were dashed due to
the developments of World War I and he never went through with an alternate plan.113
The Seventh Symphony marked Stanford's biggest commercial success with the
symphonic form since his "Irish Symphony, although it is relatively forgotten today.
Like no other symphony, this work displays Stanford's skill as a masterful craftsman, a
musical architect of the first order. There is nothing pedantic or commonplace about its
elements or methods. In light of his contemporaries' compositions, notably the
impressionist hues of Debussy and Ravel, the primitive Stravinsky, and the intricate
tone-poet Strauss, Stanford appears to be of a different time, a Victorian musician caught
within the proverbial lost world of modernism. While his contemporaries stood before
the dawn of Neoclassicism, Stanford stood firmly in conventional classicism, rooted in the
traditional values of balance, clarity, and formal unity.
112 Dibble, op. cit., 398.
113 Stanford and his wife bought tickets aboard the Lusitania for 15 May; however, a German Uboat sunk
the ship eight days before its departure. Ibid., 423-424.
The symphonies of Charles Villiers Stanford, when viewed chronologically, do not
exhibit any sort of stylistic evolution. In following the German symphonic tradition, he
exploits the inner essence of each theme in terms of development and orchestration, and
achieves formal clarity in each of the symphonies. Any programmatic or emotional
content is intimately tied to the dramatic ebb and flow of the themes in his symphonic
mold. In light of his success, or lack there of, with these works, Stanford was obviously
conscious of the artistic demands as well as the tastes of the concert-going audiences in
The first two symphonies, the longest of his symphonic oeuvre, achieved little
success outside of England. With his "Irish Symphony, however, Stanford struck gold
by not only hitting the political vein of Home Rule, an important topic in 1880's Britain,
but also by appealing to the Germanic and general Victorian love for exoticism. His
subsequent Irish Rhapsodies as well as the chamber music and songs that incorporate
Irish elements are testaments of this sociopolitical pressure. The next three symphonies
(nos. 4-6) mark the decline in his popularity as a symphonist, even though, out of all the
works for the symphonic medium, these stand as his most programmatic. They are,
without doubt, the most progressive symphonies of Stanford's output and serve to
destroy the notion that Stanford's symphonies are little more than Brahms and water.
Although the Seventh Symphony is by no means his greatest success, it captured enough
attention to attract a publisher for its concise and symmetrical form of Mozartian
Overall, Stanford' s symphonies are monuments to his own vision of what a
symphony is and should be, the vision of Victorian art music. He is to Victorian music
what Tennyson is to Victorian poetry and what Watts is to Victorian painting, artists
that successfully combine both emotional content and formal and intellectual design.
Although past criticism has placed Stanford on a back burner along with Parry as modest
forebearers of the new English renaissance, recent research has begun to shed new light onto
the dark corners of his past. Whether or not he will take his place on the pantheon of
great symphonists of the nineteenth century has yet to be determined; however, he has,
is, and will be exalted as one of the greatest British symphonists of the pre-modern era.
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Aaron Keebaugh, originally from Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, attended
Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Virginia from 1996 until 2000. While there, he was
active as a trumpeter in the college' s symphonic and j azz bands, a bass singer with the
concert and oratorio choirs, the assistant director and, later, director of the Screamin'
Eagles Pep Band, student conductor for the Symphonic Band and Concert Choir, and
music arranger for various ensembles. After earning a B.A. in music education, Mr.
Keebaugh moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania, to teach band and chorus at Bishop Guilfoyle
High School. Aside from his teaching duties, he worked as a freelance trumpet player,
private trumpet teacher, and music arranger for various high school bands in the Central
Pennsylvania and Shenandoah Valley areas. In 2002, Mr. Keebaugh entered to the
University of Florida to pursue master's and Ph.D. degrees in musicology. As a graduate
student, he has presented papers at the Society for Ethnomusicology national conference
in Miami, Florida, and the College Music Society Southern Chapter conference in
Hattiesburg, Mississippi. His article "Idiomatic Tendencies in Selected Keyboard Works
by Thomas Tallis" was published in the sixth volume of British Postgraduate M~usicology
(2004). In the spring of 2004, Mr. Keebaugh was awarded the University of Florida' s J.
Wayne Reitz Presidential Fellowship to pursue the Ph.D. in musicology.