Info

far-reaching effect on both his contemporaries and his successors. The opening of'Drop down, ye heavens, from above' (1866) by Stainer shows this harmonic predisposition, but also prevalent in Stainer's style, more typical of the mid-nineteenth century, is a greater sense of theatricality and emotionalism often linked with 'High Victorianism'. This is most characteristically portrayed in his early anthem 'I saw the Lord' (1858), in 'Lead, kindly light' (1868) and in his universally popular setting of Christ's Passion, The Crucifixion (1887). In the 1870s a reaction to Stainer's 'emotional' style emerged in the church music of Irish-born and Leipzig-educated Charles Villiers Stanford. Full of Brahms and Schumann, and a fervent believer in the merits of instrumental composition, Stanford brought a symphonic and cyclic dimension to his Morning, Communion and Evening Service in B flat Op. 10 in which choir and organ are fully integrated. The avoidance of cadence, the integral role of key, the sense of continuing variation, and the seminal role of the organ are all features that set it apart from the more episodic settings of Wesley and Stainer. Indeed, the most striking attribute of Stanford's new style is the emphasis placed on musical issues - syntax, continuity and coherence - which take priority over the detail of word illustration and the portrayal of theological meaning. The famous Magnificat, perhaps Stanford's most enduring composition for the church, further extends the analogy of 'dance'. As a scherzo, in a clear-cut ternary design, it provides a thoroughly original interpretation of the 'Song of Mary' with its strong differentiation of two robust thematic ideas. However, the concept of a scherzo formed part of a wider scheme in which the composer attempted to create movements more analogous to those of the symphony. This is evident in the Nunc Dimittis, a 'slow movement' full of pathos, the Te Deum, a 'first movement', and the Jubilate, another dance movement. A further dimension of the service is its series of cyclic references to early Gregorian fragments such as the plainsong intonation of the Ambrosian Te Deum and the Dresden Amen. Use of this material was designed to create a larger sense of cohesion across the entire service and opened up the opportunity of hearing the service as a more expansive symphonic work as part of the Sunday liturgy. More significant still, this scheme enabled Stanford's involuted musical strata of organicism, analogy, and thematic and tonal symbols to form a more complex ecclesiastical Gesamtkunstwerk in which elements of time, architectural space, liturgy, music and words coalesced into an artistic entity greater than the sum of its parts. Stanford repeated this with his even more symphonically conceived Evening Service in A Op. 10, written for St Paul's Cathedral in 1880, but his masterpieces are his Service in G Op. 81 (1902), drawing on the German lieder tradition, and the elusively complex Service in C Op. 115 (1909) which

0 0

Post a comment