Stanford, Charles Villiers


Stanford, Charles Villiers

Symphony No. 5 in D-Major „L’Allegro ed il Penseroso“, Op. 56

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Charles Villiers Stanford – Symphony No. 5 D-Major „L’Allegro ed il Penseroso“, op. 56

(b. Dublin, 30 September 1852 – d. London, 29 March 1924)

Charles Villiers Stanford is now mainly known in Germany as a teacher of e.g. Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge, Gordon Jacob and many other important British composers, much less by his own compositions. Born the son of an examiner at the Registry Court in Dublin and enthusiastic amateur singer and cellist, he came as a child in his parental home in close contact with the educated circles of his time. Als Komponisten kennt man Stanford, den irischen Protestanten, in Großbritannien vor allem durch seine Vokalkompositionen, während seine Sinfonien und Kammermusik zwar auf Tonträger, nicht aber im Musikleben eifrig gepflegt werden. Already at the age of ten, he received composition and piano lessons in London. In 1870 he matriculated at Queen‘s College, Cambridge, from where he moved to the highly acclaimed Trinity College in 1873, where he was organist from 1874 (his studies only briefly led him also to Friedrich Kiel to Berlin); soon after, he was also active as a conductor in Cambridge. In 1883, when he was founder professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in London, in 1886 music director of the London Bach Choir and in 1887 professor of music at the University of Cambridge – to name only his most important positions. In 1902 he was knighted. Stanford has created a rich and varied body of musical compositions, which are but only sparingly performed in England.

Not all of Stanford’s seven symphonies were successful throughout his lifetime, and they have not lost this fate until today. A few years before his death, his biographer John Francis Porte, counted among his most imaginative works, among others, the Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5, although the works of the more mature period were described as more “greater and grander”. The Fifth Symphony, titled “L’Allegro ed il Penseroso,” was written in 1894 and premiered on March 20, 1895 at the Queen’s Hall in London in a Philharmonic Society concert conducted by the composer. Originally, the score bore a dedication to the Philharmonic Society and its conductor Alexander Campbell Mackenzie, which was crossed out in the manuscript and is missing in the first edition, which was printed only in 1923 by Stainer & Bell. The work was inspired by Milton’s famous double poem, and each movement is headed with an apposite verse, although Stanford is not to be described as a composer of programme music. Stanford‘s maxim “Music sprang from two essential elements, Rhythm and Melody. Many could concoct a sounding score, but few could create a good melody” comes alive particularly happily in this relaxed work. The slow movement (headed by Stanford erroneously throughout “Il Pensieroso”) impresses not only by its the melodic design and processing of material, but also by the originality of the recapitulation. The final sonata rondo was compared by Jeremy Dibble to the final movements of Elgar’s First and Parry’s Fifth Symphony.

Jürgen Schaarwächter, 2019

Score No.





210 x 297 mm