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Morning, Communion and Evening Service in B flat, Op 10
first performed in Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, in 1879
author of text
Book of Common Prayer; Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55; Nunc dimittis: Luke 2: 29-32

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Evening Canticle 1: Magnificat  My soul doth magnify the Lord
Evening Canticle 2: Nunc dimittis  Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
Morning Canticle 1: Te Deum  We praise thee, O God
Morning Canticle 2: Jubilate  O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands

Morning, Communion and Evening Service in B flat, Op 10
During his time abroad in Leipzig (1875) and Berlin (1876) Stanford preferred to concentrate on secular music which included work on a violin concerto (1875), a symphony (composed for the Alexandra Palace prize in 1876), chamber music, and incidental music for Tennyson’s play, Queen Mary (1876), performed at the Lyceum Theatre. On returning to Cambridge in January 1877 Stanford had already begun to forge a reputation as a brilliant prospect for British music. Trinity College was also conscious of the emerging stature of their young organist and took action to secure his expertise. On 16 May 1877 Stanford was appointed permanent organist (officially from Lady Day) on a salary of £250 per annum. A new contract was also drawn up by the Seniority in which two full weekly practices were instituted and, for the boys, six hours of instruction per week during term time (with a reduction to four hours during the vacation). Choral services took place on Saturdays and Sundays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the Festival of the Circumcision and Epiphany, and the choir also sang certain grace anthems in Hall. Stanford was resolved to ameliorate the standard of singing at Trinity and during the next fifteen years he sought to weed out old and weakening voices, introduce undergraduate exhibitioners (taking advice from Parratt at Magdalen College, Oxford, and A H Mann at King’s College, Cambridge), and, most importantly, improve the standard of music sung in chapel. This was less straightforward than it appeared. On being appointed as permanent organist in 1877, it was agreed that Stanford and the Precentor, Borissow, would choose (and purchase) the music for chapel jointly (as is evident from the joint signatures in the Trinity music lists). However, this proved to be a contentious plan of action and in 1885 Stanford declined to continue this practice, refusing to append his name to the music lists over which, he claimed, he had no control.

Notwithstanding his frustrating predicament, Stanford did his best to break the monotony of the chapel repertoire. Works such as Gibbons’ Hosanna to the Son of David, Stainer’s I saw the Lord, S S Wesley’s The Wilderness and Brahms’s How lovely are thy dwellings fair were introduced along with Stanford’s own ‘Queen’s’ service. A red-letter day, however, was to be 25 May 1879 when his Jubilate Deo and Te Deum in B flat, Op 10, were first sung at Matins. Later the same year, during the long vacation, the Te Deum was sung again with the Benedictus on the morning of 24 August and the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis were sung in the evening. The Service in B flat, Op 10, marked a major step forward in Stanford’s setting of the morning and evening canticles. As a composer he had fully assimilated the symphonic intellectualism of Brahms as evidenced by his first Symphony (1876), the Cello Sonata, Op 9 (1877), the Violin Sonata, Op 11 (1877), and the Piano Quartet, Op 15 (1879), and looked to adapt this compositional approach to the setting of familiar canticle texts and the ordinary of the communion service. In bringing an instrumental orientation to the music of the Anglican liturgy, Stanford challenged the accepted norm of ‘choral’ primacy where emphasis on the words, the clarity of their delivery, meaning and, most of all, their comprehension was paramount. This is not to say that Stanford (any more than his hero Brahms) ignored the textual dimension—far from it—but other issues, such as the sense of musical and structural cohesion came to warrant equal consideration. To add weight to this change of emphasis, the organ was emancipated from its customary accompanimental role and, building on the example of Walmisley’s Evening Service in D minor, assumed instead one of quasi-orchestral character. This not only suited Stanford’s own colourful style of organ-playing inherited from Stewart, but also exploited the resources of the new instrument at Trinity. A further feature of the Service in B flat is the parallel drawn between the various canticles and conventional symphonic movement style-forms. The Te Deum is, for example, analogous in tempi and treatment to a first-movement Allegro, the Magnificat, a Scherzo (a ternary structure in which the Gloria functions as a recapitulation) and the Nunc dimittis, a slow movement. Other unifying elements include the repetition of the Gloria (in the Benedictus, Jubilate Deo and Nunc dimittis), the cyclic reference to common material and specific tonalities (notably D flat and C major) shared among the individual movements, and, special to the Service in B flat, the prevalence of Gregorian material (for example, the intonation to the Te Deum and the ‘Dresden Amen’ used in the Gloria).

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1997

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Details for CDA67770 track 15
Evening Canticle 1: Magnificat
Recording date
24 February 2009
Recording venue
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
David Trendell
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
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