Patric Standford

photo: Sophie Standford

Patric Standford sadly passed away unexpectedly on 
23rd April 2014


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Patric Standford's musical activities have always reflected a broad field of interest.  He had a facility for creating music of energy or lyrical sensitivity, appropriate whatever the occasion and in an idiom that may challenge but remains accessible.  He took a pride in the structural skills he learned as a pupil of Edmund Rubbra whilst at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and later with Gianfrancesco Malipiero with whom he studied in Venice on the proceeds of the Mendelssohn Scholarship award.  He was a craftsman who valued the craftsmanship.    

It is with the art of orchestration that he found most pleasure, and his orchestral works have received many international awards.  His first Symphony The Seasons, written in 1972, gained for him his first major prize, the Premio Cittá di Trieste, and that was followed by the Oscar Espla Prize in Spain for his Symphony No 2;  the Yugoslavian Government's 1974 award for his oratorio Christus Requiem, and in 1983 the Ernst Ansermet Prize of the City of Geneva in 1983 for his choral symphony Toward Paradise

Most recently he was awarded the first prize in the 1997 International Composers' Competition in Budapest for a choral and orchestral 'masque in four scenes', The Prayer of Saint Francis.   His 5th Symphony was commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and at the time of his death 6th Symphony was in the making along with his haunting opera about the 15th century poet Francois Villon.   Whilst Standford's symphonic output has received such wide international recognition, he also devoted much time and care to the production of lighter music, both as composer, orchestral conductor and arranger.   

His practical skill in orchestration was largely acquired in the field of rapidly produced commercial arrangements for West End shows and television during the 1960s and 1970s.  He worked for a time with the instrumental rock group Continuum for whom he wrote an album recorded by RCA in 1972, and he was even employed as a 'ghost writer' of music for symphonic recordings and films - one such piece was the Rod McKuen Cello Concerto, written and recorded in just ten days!    

All this, together with a constant curiosity for old music and the musical folklore of Eastern Europe and Asia, combined to make a unique musical personality who was able to call upon the widest variety of sources with confident understanding, and turn them to serve the magical world from which he drew his own fascinating musical ideas and creations.   

Standford was well known in Britain as a university lecturer and teacher with eloquence, energy and great insight.  He was also an occasional lecturer at universities and colleges in Europe and USA, where he also supervised composition workshops for students.   He  served on many international juries, especially for choral festivals in Hungary, France and Estonia.  And in addition to his work as a composer, he was an active music journalist, writer, critic and broadcaster.

After the death of his wife in 2011, Patric Standford made his home in Suffolk and continued to work avidly there, composing, writing and teaching until his sudden death in April 2014, aged 75.

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Fantasy Quintet for clarinet and strings:
'A work that thoroughly justifies its selection from 128 scores to receive the International ClarinetFest's 1999 Chamber Music Prize in Ostend last week.'
Belgisch Staatsblaad
'Rhythmically exhilarating, harmonically exciting . . .'
Het Volk, Ghent
'A superbly crafted addition to a repertoire that needs its modern masterpiece. . .'
A Christmas Carol Symphony: (CD Naxos 8.557099)
'Here is the hand of a true symphonic craftsman off duty, with colour, wit and imagination in his veins . . . a masterly blending of a galaxy of carols.'
Donald Webster - Yorkshire Post
The ballet suite 'Celestial Fire' included on the CD British Light Music - Discoveries 3' (ASV WHL 2128)
'A charming ballet suite you should place at the top of your shopping list . . . with a saucy Waltz and an enchanting Doll's Dance.'
David Denton, Classical CDs

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Listen to mp3 excerpts from Patric Standford's recordings 
Click on the CD image to stream the sound file

1.  Symphony No 5/BBC Philharmonic/Joan Rodgers (soprano)
 cond. Brian Priestman

(© BBC recording)
2. 'Doll's Dance' from 'Celestial Fire'
Royal Ballet Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
White Line Light Classics  ASV CD WHL 2128
3. Motet: Tenebrae factae sunt (from Tenebrae Responses) BBC Singers / David Hill
(© BBC recording)
4.  No 1 of Folksongs for string orchestra
Northern Sinfonia/John Georgiadis
(© BBC recording)
5. Taikyoku: symphony for two pianos and percussion
Huddersfield University New Music Ensemble
(1999 Huddersfield Festival recording)
6. from Ancient Verses: 'Devouring Time'
Ellerhain Chamber Choir/Tonu Kaljuste
(© Swedish Radio recording)
7. from Scherzo: Concerto for cello and orchestra
Raphael Wallfisch/BBC/Sir Charles Groves
(© BBC recording)
8.  No 4 of Six Preludes for piano (original version)
Rhondda Gillespie
(© BBC recording)
9.  from The Prayer of St. Francis
Hungarian Radio Orchestra & Chorus
cond. Tamás Vásáry
(© Hungarian Radio/Television recording)
10. Finale from A Christmas Carol Symphony
Prague Philharmonic/Gavin Sutherland
(NAXOS 8.557099)

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Patric Standford continued to compose up until his death. Works include 'Recorder Quintet commissioned by John Turner, recorded and premiered at the Rawsthorne Festival, Royal Northern College of Music in 2014. Anthem commissioned by Elis Pehkonen, premiered at the William Alwyn Festival 2014. He had also revised his great work Christus Requiem with plans for performance at perhaps Norwich or Chichester Cathedrals.
The British Music Society has now issued its first full orchestral recording of music by Patric Standford, adding to their extensive collection of British Music. 

The CD [BMS441CD], which includes the First Symphony, Raphael Wallfisch's performance of the Cello Concerto and a short Fantasy Prelude, was recorded in Autumn 2011 by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the direction of David Lloyd-Jones.

It is now available through all record stores or directly from the British Music Society from which website it may also be downloaded.
In February 2010 the BBC Singers, under the direction of Paul Brough, recorded a group of Patric Standford’s choral pieces which included his setting of the Stabat Mater, Three Motets in memory of Britten, O Sacrum Convivium and the Mass for Hildegard of Bingham.   The programme will be broadcast later in the year on BBC Radio 3.
Recognising the support and friendship offered by Peters Edition London, the newly completed RESPONSES FOR TENEBRÆ (2010) is dedicated to its director Nicholas Riddle.  This a cappella sequence of the 18 votive motets for Passiontide is divided into the three broad groupings relating to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday.  Designed primarily for concert use as a cohesive three movement symphonic cycle, the motets can, of course, be presented separately, or in smaller groupings.  The framework would also allow for their liturgical use.   The work continues one of Standford’s particular interests – that of the commemoration of Easter.
The largest undertaking has been the revision of CHRISTUS-REQUIEM, an Easter oratorio originally commissioned by the Guildhall School of Music and the Lord Mayor, Court of Aldermen and City of London Corporation in 1972.   The oratorio had its first performance the following year in St.Paul's Cathedral with John Aldiss directing the full choral and orchestral forces of the Guildhall School.  Additions to the full choir, chamber choir and large orchestra included two large brass ensembles, children's choir, Ernest Berk's dance ensemble and a cast of narrators from the drama department.   The performance was attended by dignitaries from the City of London, and those representing several faiths and many European choral organisations.   It created wide interest, and over the following months gained awards from Hungary, France and the valuable Yugoslavian Solidarity Arts Award 1974 following a performance in Skopje.  The revised score is now completed after detailed work spread over six years.  It is dedicated to the memory of the school's principal Allen Percival and to Harold Dexter and John Aldiss, all prime supporters of the huge enterprise.   It also gratefully recognises the immense commitment of the staff and 280 students who were involved.
Other New Works:
Six Preludes for guitar is a revision and extension for Neil Darwent of an earlier set of three, the originals being reworked and the new additions designed to explore more of the guitar's potential than did the original.  Neil gave the first performance of the original pieces in a recital at Huddersfield University in October 2007 where the new set will be premiered later this year. 
A Sonata for violin and piano was completed in 2008 in honour of a long neglected promise made back in 1958 to a school friend, Anne Park (née Norman), later to become an eminent violinist and teacher, and the only contact maintained with a lively musical peer group at Ackworth (Friends) School.  The 50 year delay allowed a little more maturity to be applied to the enterprise.  
Improvisations for piano was written later in 2008 in honour of the 90th birthday of James Gibb, a distinguished colleague and former head of keyboard studies at the Guildhall School.   The Improvisations are based on 'an irritating tune' (in Standford's view) – an Italian folkdance used by both Liszt (Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa in book 2 of Annèes de pèlerinage) and in Darius Milhaud's 'Salade' ballet) and intended to appeal to 'Jimmy's' generous sense of humour.  
Patric Standford’s 70th birthday year was marked by the British Music Society which invited him to deliver a Lecture-Recital last October, taking an honoured place among many distinguished former lecturers.   The event is reported in the BMS Newsletter 124 (December 2009).  
Work continues on the opera VILLON, and on a new symphonic orchestral undertaking – of which more in due course!
Patric Standford’s long involvement and experience in teaching composition – initially for 15 years at the Guildhall School of Music in London , and later at the Universities of Huddersfield and Leeds – inevitably led to his enthusiasm for the Open College of the Arts [] where he is now the music adviser and course leader.  The year 2009 saw the launch of three new ‘Composing Music’ courses of which he is the author.  An account of its genesis was written for the British Music Society journal and is reproduced with their kind permission.
Commercial recordings currently available:

A Christmas Carol Symphony   NAXOS 8.557099
Ballet Suite: Celestial Fire   ASV CD WHL 2128
Symphony No 1   BMS 441CD

Cello Concerto   BMS 441CD

Prelude to a Fantasy   BMS 441CD

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Read articles and reviews by Patric Standford:
Choir & Organ  (
recent articles include:
‘Animated Individuality’: a profile of John Gardner at 90  (2007: Vol. 15 No 2)
‘Reflecting the Man’: an appreciation of composer Petr Eben (2004: Vol.12 No 4)
Finnish Treasure: the Tapiola Chamber Choir (2004: Vol 12 No 2)
Edward Cowie and the BBC Singers at Huddersfield (2003: Vol 11 No 2)
A James Wood profile: Meeting the challenge (2002: Vol 10 No 3)
Latvian conductor Kaspars Putnins: Strength from heritage (2002: Vol 10 No 1)
Constant Lambert: Wayward Genius (2001: Vol 9 No 2)
The Orlando Consort:  Exhilarating Explorations (2001: Vol 9 No 2)
Provocative Thoughts is an ongoing series on Music & Vision with many CD reviews (
Standford was Music Critic for the Yorkshire Post 1980 - 2008 

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