Classic Cat

Biography of

Charles Villiers Stanford

30 sep 1852 (Dublin) - 29 mar 1924 (London)
Buy sheetmusic from Stanford at SheetMusicPlus
Charles Villiers Stanford

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish-born composer, resident in England for much of his life. He is particularly notable for his choral music. From 1887 until 1924 he was professor of music at University of Cambridge.



Charles Villiers Stanford - caricature by Leslie Ward

Stanford was born in Dublin, the only son of John Stanford, examiner in the Court of Chancery (Dublin) and clerk of the Crown, County Meath. Both parents were accomplished amateur musicians; his father sang bass (and was also a cellist [1]) and his mother was a pianist. Charles trained under R. M. Levey (violin), Miss Meeke, Mrs Joseph Robinson, Miss Flynn and Michael Quarry (piano); and Sir Robert Stewart taught him composition and organ. His precocious ability was recorded in an article in The Musical Times in December 1898.

He came to London as a pupil of Arthur O'Leary and Ernst Pauer in 1862, and in 1870 won a scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge.[2] In 1873 he moved to Trinity College (for whom he wrote his Three Latin Motets), succeeding J. L. Hopkins as college organist, a post he held until 1892. His appointment as conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society gave him great opportunities, and the fame which the society soon achieved was in the main due to Stanford's energies.

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

He first became known as a composer with his incidental music to Tennyson's Queen Mary (Lyceum, 1876); and in 1881 his first opera, The Veiled Prophet, was given at Hanover (revived at Covent Garden, 1893); this was succeeded by Savonarola (Hamburg, April, and Covent Garden, July 1884), and The Canterbury Pilgrims (Drury Lane, 1884). His later operas were Shamus O'Brien (Opera Comique, 1896), Much Ado About Nothing (Covent Garden, 1901) (libretto - Julian Sturgis), The Critic (Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 1916), and The Travelling Companion (David Lewis Theatre, Liverpool, 1925).[3]

He was appointed professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in 1883; was conductor of The Bach Choir from 1886 to 1902; was professor of music at Cambridge, succeeding Sir G. A. Macfarren from 1887; conductor of the Leeds Philharmonic Society from 1897 to 1909, and of the Leeds Festival from 1901 to 1910. He was an exacting but respected teacher whose pupils included Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Charles Wood (who succeeded him as music professor), Geoffrey Shaw, Ivor Gurney, Rebecca Clarke and Herbert Howells. Notoriously irascible, he quarrelled with many of his contemporaries, including Elgar and Parry. He was knighted in 1902.[4]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
John Larkin Hopkins
Organist and Master of the Choristers of Trinity College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Alan Gray


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

His instrumental works include seven symphonies, six Irish Rhapsodies for orchestra, several works for organ, concertos for violin, cello, clarinet, and piano, and many chamber compositions, including eight string quartets. He also composed songs, part-songs, madrigals, and incidental music to Eumenides and Oedipus Rex (as performed at Cambridge), as well as to Tennyson's Becket. His music shows the influence of Brahms and Schumann, and to a lesser extent of Irish folk music; he was generally unsympathetic to more modern developments. Although his chief importance is often held to be as a teacher of many English composers of the next generation, the last two decades have seen a revival of interest in his larger compositions after a long period of neglect. He published several books, including an autobiography, Pages from an Unwritten Diary (1914) and Musical Composition (1911).

Stanford also wrote lighter pieces of music under the pseudonym of Karel Drofnatski.[citation needed]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

List of works


  • Lorenza, Op. 55 (unpub.)
  • The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (1881)
  • Savonarola (1884)
  • The Canterbury Pilgrims (1884)
  • Shamus O'Brien, Op. 61 (1896)
  • Christopher Patch, the Barber of Bath, Op. 69
  • Much Ado About Nothing, Op. 76a (1901)
  • The Critic, or An Opera Rehearsed, Op. 144 (1916)
  • The Travelling Companion, Op. 146 (produced 1925, posth.)
  • The Marriage of Hero (unpub.)
  • The Miner of Falun (Act I; unpub.)

Orchestral works


  • No. 1 in B flat major (1876)
  • No. 2 in D minor, "Elegiac" (1882)
  • No. 3 in F minor, "Irish", Op. 28 (1887)
  • No. 4 in F major, Op. 31 (1888) [5]
  • No. 5 in D major, "L'Allegro ed il Pensieroso", Op. 56 (1894)
  • No. 6 in E flat major, "In Memoriam G. F. Watts", Op. 94 (1905) [5]
  • No. 7 in D minor, Op. 124 (1911)


  • Piano Concerto (early- no. "0") (1874)[6]
  • Violin Concerto (early, 1875) [6]
  • Cello Concerto in D minor (1879-1880) [6]
  • Suite for violin and orchestra, Op. 32
  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 59
  • Concert Variations upon an English Theme "Down Among the Dead Men" for piano and orchestra in C minor, Op. 71
  • Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 74
  • Clarinet Concerto in A minor, Op. 80
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 126 (1911)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op.162 (1918)[7]
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 171 (1919; unfinished, orchestrated by Geoffrey Bush)[6]
  • Concert Piece for organ and orchestra, Op. 181

Irish Rhapsodies

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

Other orchestral works

Choral works

Anthems and motets

  • And I saw another Angel (Op. 37, No. 1)
  • Eternal Father (Op.135)
  • For lo, I raise up (Op. 145)
  • If thou shalt confess (Op. 37, No. 2)
  • The Lord is my Shepherd (composed 1886)
  • Three Latin Motets (Op. 38, 1905)
    • Justorum animae
    • Coelos ascendit hodie
    • Beati quorum via


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


  • The Blue Bird, on words by Mary Coleridge
  • Six Elizabethan Pastorals Op. 49 (1892)
  • Six Elizabethan Pastorals (2nd set) Op. 53 (1894)
  • On Time, Choral Song for unaccompanied double choir, Op. 142 Poem by John Milton
  • Magnificat in B flat major for unaccompanied double choir, Op. 164 (September 1918): dedicated to the memory of Parry
  • Pater Noster (1874)

Works for choir and orchestra

  • The Revenge, a ballad of the fleet, Op. 24 (1886) Words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Requiem, Op. 63 (1896) [5]
  • Te Deum, Op. 66 (1898; written for the Leeds Festival)
  • Songs of the Sea for solo baritone, choir (mixed or men's voices) ad lib. and orchestra (Op. 91)
  • Songs of the Fleet for solo baritone, SATB and orchestra (Op. 117)

Songs for solo voice(s) and piano

  • Six Songs (Op. 19)
  • 3 Songs to poems by Robert Bridges (Op. 43)
  • A Cycle of (9) Songs from The Princess of Alfred, Lord Tennyson for Quartet of solo voices (SATB) and piano (Op. 68)
  • An Irish Idyll in Six Miniatures, words by Moira O'Neill (Op. 77)
  • Songs of Faith Set 1 (Tennyson) (Op. 97, 1-3)
  • Songs of Faith Set 2 (Walt Whitman) (Op. 97, 4-6)
  • A Sheaf of Songs from Leinster: 6 songs to words by W.M.Letts (Op. 140)
  • Crossing the bar Words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • La belle dame sans merci, poem by John Keats
  • A Corsican Dirge, poem translated from the Corsican by Alma Strettell
  • Prospice, poem by Robert Browning
  • The Milkmaid's song and The Lute Song, poems from "Queen Mary" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • To Carnations, poem by Robert Herrick
  • Why so pale?, poem by Sir John Suckling

Chamber Music

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

Piano Music

  • Three 'Dante' Rhapsodies, Op. 92
  • Preludes, Op. 163
  • Ballade, Op. 170

Organ Music

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


See also


  • Harry Plunket Greene - Charles Villiers Stanford (London, Edward Arnold, 1935)
  • Jeremy Dibble - Charles Villiers Stanford: man and musician (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Paul J. Rodmell - Charles Villiers Stanford (Aldershot, Hampshire: Scolar Press, 2002)
  • Liam Mac Cóil - An Chláirseach agus an Choróin (Indreabhán, Leabhar Breac, 2010)


  1. ^ "Charles Villiers Stanford". The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular (Musical Times Publications Ltd.) 39 (670): 785. December 1, 1898. doi:10.2307/3365844. ISSN 0958-8434. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  2. ^ Stanford, Charles Villiers in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. ^ Vocal score of The Travelling Companion
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 27494, p. 7165, 11 November 1902. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
  5. ^ a b c Howell, Christopher (1997). "Stanford and Musical Quotation". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  6. ^ a b c d France, John (August 2007). "STANFORD Cello Concerto, Piano Concerto No. 3 SRCD321: Classical CD Reviews". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  7. ^ OCLC 270569607
  8. ^ (PDF) Downloadable Score of Stanford 3rd Trio. Augener Ltd. 1918. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Charles Villiers Stanford. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
Buy sheetmusic from Stanford at SheetMusicPlus

Our dream: to make the world's treasury of classical music accessible for everyone. See the about page on how we see the future.
Help us with donations or by making music available!

Contact     Privacy policy    Looking for classical mp3 downloads? We index the free-to-download classical mp3s on the internet.
©2021 Classic Cat - the classical music directory
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
Visitor's Favorites

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, F.
6 Partsongs op. 50

Fountain Valley High School

Bach, J.S.
Fugue in G minor for lute

Allar Ounapuu

Bach, J.S.
Toccata and Fugue in d minor

Brennin Keller

Bach, J.S.
Italian concerto

Alfonso Bertazzi

Bach, J.S.
Mass in B minor

Heinrich Sch├╝tz Ensemble

Mozart, W.A.
Concertone for 2 Violins & Orchestra

Vienna Symphonic Orchestra