The Stanford Society

Membership enquiriesChris Cope


When one considers that Stanford was one of the most important musical figures of his age with worldwide fame, it is a shame that his reputation today seems to centre mostly around his cathedral music. Yet he wrote extensively in many musical forms, producing seven symphonies, concertos for piano, cello and violin, ten operas and over 30 substantial choral works, as well as an extensive corpus of chamber works and pieces for organ and piano. These put his, undoubtedly important, anthems and liturgical settings for the Anglican Church into greater perspective.

Indeed, it is worth reminding ourselves that his First Symphony of 1876 set the mould for the English symphonic tradition. And his Third Symphony of 1887 earned Stanford an international reputation: not only was it selected for the opening concert of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, but it was widely regarded as the most successful British symphony before the advent of Elgar’s First. His Fourth Symphony was commissioned by Berlin and was first played there in a concert devoted solely to his music. As a composer he was strongly influenced by Brahms, and in later life became a pioneer of the works of Brahms and Dvorák.

Born in Dublin, Stanford was the only child of a middle-class Protestant family. A brilliant classicist, he won an organ scholarship (and later a classics scholarship) to Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1870. There he established a commanding musical reputation, being appointed organist at Trinity College from 1874 until 1892. In 1887, at the age of 35, he was elected Professor of Music at Cambridge, and when the Royal College of Music was opened in 1883, he became the first Professor of Composition, retaining both posts until his death. At the RCM he taught Vaughan Williams, Holst, Coleridge-Taylor, Bridge, Ireland and Howells.

Up to the First World War he dominated the British musical world, but from the outbreak of war his music declined in popularity, being eclipsed in particular by Elgar and by a modern idiom with which he felt increasingly out of sympathy.

Nick Walker


The Stanford Society was established in March 2007 as an international society to honour the life and music of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, who lived from 1852 to 1924. The aims of the society are to encourage and support the increased performance and recording of Stanford’s music, both in the UK and overseas.

For membership enquiries, contact Chris Cope using the contact details given above.


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