resentiamo in questa pagina l'esecuzione dei 30 Voluntaries di John Stanley, eseguiti e registrati per il pubblico (ndr. probabilmente è la prima integrale al cembalo) dal Mº Fernando De Luca. Questi meravigliosi brani furono pubblicati in 3 libri successivi: nel 1748 (Op.5, nos. 1-10), nel 1752 (Op.6, nos. 11-20) e nel 1754 (Op.7, nos. 21-30), con l'esplicita dicitura “for the Organ or Harpsicord”. I pezzi presentano quasi sempre una struttura bipartita, a volte ricalcando la forma del preludio-fuga, ed in questi non si può che riconoscere la forte influenza di Handel. E' lo stile che il Caro Sassone portò a Londra dalla Germania a partire dal 1711, che si fonde con il tradizionale Voluntary inglese, ed infine sopravvive allo stesso Handel fino alla fine del Settecento. Altre volte i brani seguono la forma più libera, tipicamente adagio-allegro, dalla tradizione inglese che Stanley apprese attraverso i suoi maestri John Reading e, soprattutto, Maurice Greene.
La presente esecuzione, interamente al cembalo, permette di assaporare la stessa musica tanto cara agli organisti, da un diverso punto di vista, ovverosia quello che risulta dall'impiego di una tecnica ed un fraseggio specificamente cembalistici. In effetti, molti di questi brani, sembrano effettivamente concepiti per il clavicembalo o comunque si prestano in modo esatto alla resa su tale strumento, probabilmente anche grazie alla maestria del nostro esecutore.
I Voluntaries vengono generalmente eseguiti all'organo, strumento d'elezione dello stesso Stanley, il quale, completamente privo della vista dall'infanzia, si esibiva all'organo londinese di St Andrew, Holborn, attirando musicisti e curiosi da ogni parte della città. E' documentato che lo stesso Handel, dopo il 1726, frequentò assiduamente i concerti di Stanley, anzi, i due divennero grandi amici e tra loro si instaurò una lunga e proficua attività di collaborazione musicale. Dopo la morte di Handel (1759), l'organista inglese continuò ad eseguire gli oratori del caro sassone, spesso lavorando a stretto contatto con John Christopher Smith jr, il fido assistente di Handel ed infine arrivando a comporre due suoi oratori, in perfetto stile haendeliano, Zimri (1760) e The Fall of Egypt (1774). Le relazioni con Handel non si fermano qui, infatti, John Stanley divenne parte del consiglio direttivo del Foundling Hospital (il famoso "orfanotrofio dei trovatelli") a partire dal 1770, curando personalmente l'esecuzione del Messiah negli anni successivi. Immaginate il vecchio John Stanley all'organo di St Andrew, anni '70-'80 del XVIII secolo: è come se una parte di Handel vivesse ancora in lui!
Una breve digressione per i conoscitori della città di Londra. Tutta l'area dell'attuale distretto di Holborn, che confina con il quartiere di Bloomsbury (non lontano da Kings Cross e Camden Town) fu quella effettivamente frequentata da John Stanley (oltre che da Handel). Infatti qui troviamo la chiesa di St Andrew, in parte ricostruita identica all'originale dopo i bombardamenti del 1941, troviamo l'area di Hatton Garden dove l'organista si trasferì nel 1751 vicino alla casa dello storico John Hawkins. Sempre in Hatton Garden, fu temporaneamente collocato il Foundling Hospital, dal suo fondatore Thomas Coram nel 1741, ma la sede definitiva fu spostata (1745) nell'area che oggi è occupata da Brunswick Square, dal Foundling Museum e dai Coram's Fields. Coloro i quali oggi si recano all'ingresso dei Coram's Fields, trovano una simpatica targa sui cancelli con il seguente avviso laconico: “adults may only enter if accompanied by a child”.
Concludo con un affascinante documento (testo originale inglese) che fu pubblicato sul periodico londinese The European Magazine & London Review nel 1784, quando John Stanley era ancora in vita all'età di 71 anni. Mi sembra senza dubbio il modo più efficace per presentare la figura di un compositore inglese, per mano degli stessi suoi contemporanei di fine XVIII secolo.
Zadok, 2 settembre 2012
Some Account of John Stanley Esq.
(from The European Magazine & London Review, 1784)
o the honour of the present times, England is no longer to be pointed as barren of masters in the polite arts. Music, which formerly derived little advantage from natives of this island, now can boast of several Professors, who rival the Italian and German masters both in performance and in composition. The English school, we trust, will continue to do honour to the science of music: and it will afford us great pleasure to record occasionally the lives of such of the professors of the art, as, from their abilities and virtues, deserve to be transmitted to posterity.
Of these, the gentleman we have selected for this month is not the least distinguished. Mr. Stanley was born on the 17th of January O.S. 1713. At about the age of two years, he had the misfortune to fall on a marble hearth, with a china basin in his hand, by which accident he was deprived of his sight. At the age of seven years he began to learn music, and soon arrived at considerable excellence in playing on the harpsichord - his master was Mr. Reading, organist of St. John's, Hackney, and a pupil of the celebrated Dr. Blow. When he first began to learn, it was without any prospect of deriving more advantage from the science than merely amusement; but being observed to take great delight in the art and making a considerable progress in it, his father was advised to apply to Dr. Green, the organist of St. Paul's, for further instruction, under whom he studied with great diligence and success.
Determining to make music his profession, he obtained, at the early age of eleven years, the place of organist of All-hallows, Bread-street, in November 1723, and that of St. Andrew, Holborn, August 16, 1726. He was elected in May 1734 by the Benchers of the honourable Society of the Inner Temple, their organist. Both these latter posts he has ever since continued to hold.
On the death of Mr. Handel, in the year 1760, he, in conjunction with Mr. Smith, (to whom, with himself, Mr. Handel had bequeathed his music) undertook to superintend the performance of Oratorios first at Covent Garden , and since at Drury Lane. This he continued until within two years just passed. On the death of Dr. Boyce, in February 1779, he was appointed Master of his Majesty's Band of Musicians; and in May, 1781, succeeded Mr. Weideman as Conductor of it.
In July 1738, Mr. Stanley was married to Miss Sarah Arlond, daughter of the late Edward Arlond, Esq. Captain in the honourable East Indian Company's Service, but has no children.
Mr. Stanley was admitted Bachelor of Music, at the University of Oxford, on the 19th of July 1729.
It is the maxim of philosophy that the loss on one sense strengthens the others. The position was never more clearly demonstrated than in the person of Mr. Stanley, whose retentive memory is almost beyond the bounds of probability. He is never at a loss for anything that he has learnt in his profession, even in his juvenile years. The manner and propriety with which he has conducted the Oratorios for many years past has not only excited the admiration, but also the astonishment of all the admirers of that elevated species of musick; and it is worth recording, that at the performance of one of Handel's Te Deums, for the benefit of a public charity, the organ was half a note too sharp for the other instruments that were to assist at the performance, on which occasion he transposed the whole of it with as much ease and address, as any other person could have done by the help of sight.
Any person's voice being once heard by him, he never forgets; and if twenty people were seated at a table with him, he will address them all in regular order, without their situations being previously announced to him. In the younger part of his life, riding on horseback was amongst his favourite exercises; and but of late years it was no uncommon thing, when he lived in Salter's Buildings on Epping Forest, and wished to give his friends an airing , to carry them the most pleasant road, and point out to them the most pleasing prospects. His hours of relaxation in the evenings are often passed at whist, where it is at once as curious as entertaining to see with how much readiness and judgement he plays the game; each card is marked at the corner with the point of a needle; but these signs are so delicately made, as hardly to be felt or seen by any person that is not apprised of it. With these slight marks Mr. Stanley is generally the first whose hand is arranged: and it is no uncommon thing for him to upbraid the party with being tedious in sorting their cards.
He distinguishes with great accuracy the size of a room merely by the sound, and supplies the deficient sense so amply by the acuteness of the others, that he seems to feel but few of those wants which might naturally be expected from one who is deprived of the advantage arising from sight.
As though singularity was fated to attend Mr. Stanley, it is remarkable that a few years ago, without any previous illness, and without any subsequent inconvenience, he lost all his hair from his body. This remarkable incident, we believe, was described in the Philosophical Transactions about the year that it happened.
The composer, Mr. Stanley, is always sweet and pleasant. If he does not posses the fire of Handel, he never disgusts with insipidity. He has carefully cultivated the style in which he was originally instructed, which, if it does not exhibit as much of what is called Taste as may be found among other authors, at least discovers more good sense.
It is almost unnecessary to enter into his merits as a performer, those being as universally known as acknowledged; and as we do not mean to write a panegyric of this gentleman's talents, justice will authorise us in pronouncing him at once a prodigy and an ornament to his country.
- Some Account of John Stanley, Esq., European Magazine and London Review, vi (1784), 171–2
- M. Boyd, John Stanley’s Voluntaries, MT, cxv (1974), 598–601
- M. Boyd, John Stanley and the Foundling Hospital, Soundings, v (1975), 73–81
- A.G. Williams, The Life and Works of John Stanley (1712–86) - U. of Reading, 1977
- The Sheet Music can be downloaded from IMSLP.ORG using the following links: (Op.5) (Op.6) (Op.7)