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Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

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Biography

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (September 30, 1852 – March 29, 1924) was an Irish composer.

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, moving to Trinity College in 1873, and succeeding J. L. Hopkins as college organist, a post he held until 1892. His appointment as conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society gave him great opportunities, and the fame which the society soon obtained was in the main due to Stanford’s energies.

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

He first became known as a composer with his incidental music to Tennyson’s Queen Mary (Lyceum, 1876); and in 1881 his first opera, The Veiled Prophet, was given at Hanover (revived at Covent Garden, 1893); this was succeeded by Savonarola (Hamburg, April, and Covent Garden, July 1884), and The Canterbury Pilgrims (Drury Lane, 1884).

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