The date of The Tomb
, a setting of words by the seventeenth-century poet Thomas Stanley, is uncertain. In earlier work-lists of Stanford its publication (c1886?) was attributed to the Winchester publisher, Teague & King, though no specimen has been located. An imprint has, however, survived by T Andrews & Co of Guildford as part of an undated publication entitled Our Musical Album
(which included other miniatures by Parry and Cowen). The final line of Stanley’s first verse, ‘There is more liberty in Death than Love’, summarises the mood of the forsaken lover who dwells indulgently on thoughts of death in the cold earth of his marble tomb; and yet in death itself (as in the final verse) he clings to the thought that his beloved may still retain his memory ‘buried in thy breast’. Stanford’s response was to match the theatrical gestures of Stanley’s poem with broad, seamless vocal lines (in accordance with the irregular lengths of the rhyming couplets), full accompanimental textures and strong harmonies redolent of Brahms. Especially effective is the last verse which, in triple metre, commences with cortège-like iambic rhythms in the piano before building to an impressive, impassioned climax (‘Since by thine eye slain’).
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2000