Much has been written about Stanford, undoubtedly one of the leading musicians of his generation who had a profound effect on the development and history of English music as a performer, conductor, composer, teacher and writer.
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor. Born and raised in Dublin, he was the only son of a prosperous Protestant lawyer. Stanford was educated at the University of Cambridge, initially as an organ scholar at Queen's College, before studying music in Leipzig and Berlin. While still an undergraduate, Stanford was appointed organist of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1882, aged 29, he was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life. From 1887 he was also Professor of Music at Cambridge. You can read more on the pages of the Stanford Society here.
As a teacher Stanford was sceptical about modernism, and based his instruction predominantly on classical principles as exemplified in the music of Brahms. (Brahms' music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Classical masters. The diligent, highly constructed nature of his works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers. Embedded within his meticulous structures, however, are deeply romantic motifs.)
Stanford was a traditionalist during his teaching career. Ironically though his own rejection of conservatism in his youth in favour of Brahms' style was precisely the route adopted by many of his pupils, who diverged from the path he instructed them on and with considerable success. Surely this is the fundamental role of the teacher though, to provide a secure foundation for pupils from which to launch their own careers? This was certainly the view of George Dyson.
"In a certain sense the very rebellion he fought was the most obvious fruit of his methods. And in view of what some of these rebels have since achieved, one is tempted to wonder whether there is really anything better a teacher can do for his pupils than drive them into various forms of revolution."
Among his pupils were rising composers whose fame went on to surpass his own, such as Herbert Brewer, George Dyson, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Wood. (The latter succeeded him as Professor of Music at Cambridge University.) As Professor at the Royal College of Music Stanford taught Herbert Howells, and also Ivor Gurney and George Butterworth, both casualties of the Great War. His legacy in my view is as the grandfather of twentieth century Anglican music.
Stanford's best-remembered pieces are his choral works for church performance, composed in the Anglican tradition. (Choral Wiki has a list here. )He was a prolific composer, although many of his non-ecclesiastical works declined in popularity after his death this was not true of his church compositions. Anthems such as "Beati Quorum Via", "Justorum Animae", "Coelos Ascendit Hodie" and "For lo I raise up" are staples in the repertoire of many churches and cathedrals. Who hasn't sung his Evening Canticles in B flat, C and G? His services in A (1880), F (one whilst at Queen's, Cambridge and known as the "Queen's Service" (1872), a second in F Op36 (1889) and C (1909) are less well known to me, although considered the most important and enduring according to historical musicologist Nicholas Temperley. His second Magnificat in F is beautiful, listen to it here .
As with all composer's, Stanford's style did change over time - no matter how conservative his stylistic views. Compare his Queen's Service Magnificat in F (Op2) written in 1889 here :-
With his well known Magnificat in B flat written in here :-