Thursday, March 10, 2016

Classical Music of Ireland: Charles Stanford

Irish composer Charles Stanford (1852–1924) became a leading musical figure in England over the course of his life, teaching at the Royal College of Music, acting as the Chair of Music at Cambridge, and even achieving knighthood.

Charles Stanford (Courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Stanford grew up in a home where he was encouraged to pursue music. He received a good musical and academic education in Dublin before entering the Queens’ College, Cambridge at 18. After graduation, Stanford had already established himself as an organist, conductor, and soon, a leading composer. He also had several notable pupils including Vaughan Williams, Holst, and Bridge.

As a composer, Stanford wrote in a variety of musical genres including works for voice, stage, orchestra, chamber ensemble, and keyboard. His Irish Rhapsodies are among his noteworthy works, having roots in his Irish heritage. Today, let’s listen to the first rhapsody that he based on Irish folk tales. In it, Stanford takes two traditional Irish tunes and uses them as the basis: “Leatherbags Donnell” and the “Londonderry Air.” We will look at how the “Londonderry Air” is used on other famous works later this month.




Next week we’ll look at one more Irish-born composer, Arthur Duff, before we get to St. Patrick’s Day when I’ll give you a special playlist! Stay tuned! 

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