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Magnificat for eight-part chorus in B flat, Op 164

composer
September 1918; dedicated to Parry
author of text
Luke 1: 46-55

 
On 7 October 1918, just four weeks before Armistice, the unhappy news of the death of Hubert Parry was announced. For years he and Stanford had enjoyed a close friendship, but in recent times their relationship had become fractious. Early in 1917 a serious rift occurred which Stanford bitterly regretted. Owing in part to his wife, who played the role of intermediary, the friendship was revived but scars inevitably remained. As a symbol of his affection (and remorse) Stanford composed his Latin Magnificat for eight-part chorus in B flat, Op 164, which was completed in September 1918. Unfortunately Parry died before the work was published the following year. As an indication of the composer’s regret, the piece bore the following Latin inscription, here translated into English: ‘This work, which death prevented me from giving Charles Hubert Hastings Parry in life, I dedicate to his name in grief. C.V.S.’ Although Stanford adopted traditional elements of motet style such as imitation and antiphony, the espousal of sixteenth-century techniques was but one feature of the work, for the composer also paid tribute to the florid intricacy and counterpoint of Bach whose motets he knew intimately as the one-time conductor of The Bach Choir. One thinks particularly of the effusive eight-part Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (which Stanford conducted numerous times), but one cannot help also drawing a parallel with Bach’s own Magnificat whose vigorous opening and closing music seems to resonate in the corresponding pages of Stanford’s work, and to which Parry, a self-confessed devotee, had also paid homage in his own Bachian setting of 1897. Stanford’s remarkable setting is, like much of his service music and anthems, symphonic in scope, but here the treatment of the text is much more expansive and not confined by the usual constraints of the Anglican liturgy. One is immediately aware of this in the substantial tripartite opening section and in the four contrasting sections that follow in E flat (‘Quia fecit mihi magna’), C minor (‘Fecit potentiam’), and D flat (‘Esurientes implevit bonis’) before B flat is restored with the final section of text (‘Suscepit Israel’) in a splendid gathering of momentum from an initial pastoral mood to a buoyant, climactic ‘alla breve’. And to reinforce this return to the tonic Stanford recalls the opening material in a more truncated form, using the text of the doxology. The concluding ‘Amen’, furthermore, is one of the composer’s most thrilling in its sudden epigrammatic divergence to G flat directly before the spacious final cadence.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2020

Recordings

Parry: Songs of farewell & works by Stanford, Gray & Wood
Studio Master: CDA68301Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Stanford and Howells Remembered
CSCD524Download only
Stanford: Choral Music
Studio Master: CDA68174Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Stanford: Sacred choral music
CDS44311/33CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
The music of Westminster Cathedral Choir
WCC100Super-budget price sampler

Details

Track 10 on CDA68174 [11'51]
Track 6 on CDA68301 [12'37]
Track 14 on WCC100 [11'53] Super-budget price sampler
Track 9 on CDS44311/3 CD3 [10'15] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 5 on CSCD524 CD1 [11'12] Download only

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