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Sir William Sterndale Bennett.
Sir William Sterndale Bennett (13 April 1816 – 1 February 1875) was an English composer and pianist.


Bennett was born in Sheffieldmarker, the son of Robert Bennett, an organist. Having lost his father at an early age, he was brought up in Cambridgemarker by his grandfather, from whom he received his first musical education. He entered the choir of King's Collegemarker chapel in 1824. In 1826 he entered the Royal Academy of Musicmarker, and remained a pupil of that institution for the next ten years, studying pianoforte under W. H. Holmes and Cipriani Potter, and composition under Charles Lucas and William Crotch. It was during this time that he wrote several of his most appreciated works, in which may be traced influences of the contemporary movement of music in Germanymarker, which country he frequently visited during the years 1836-1842. At one of the Lower Rhenish Music Festival in Düsseldorfmarker he made the personal acquaintance of Mendelssohn, and soon afterwards renewed it at Leipzigmarker, where the talented young Englishman was welcomed by the leading musicians of the rising generation. At one of the celebrated Gewandhaus concerts he played his third piano concerto, which was received enthusiastically. A laudatory account of the event was written by Robert Schumann, who pronounced Bennett to be the most musikalisch of all Englishmen, and an angel of a musician (copying Pope Gregory I's pun on Angli and Angeli).

But it was Mendelssohn's influence that dominated Bennett's mode of utterance. A good example of this may be studied in Bennett's Capriccio in D minor. His great success on the continent established his position on his return to England. In 1834 he was elected organist of St Anne's Chapel (now church), Wandsworthmarker. In this year he composed his Overture to Parisina, and his Concerto in C minor, modelled on Mozart. An unpublished Concerto in F minor, and the Overture to The Naiads, impressed the firm of Broadwood and Sons so favourably in 1836 that they offered the composer a year in Leipzigmarker, where the Naiads Overture was performed at a Gewandhaus concert on 13 February 1837. Bennett visited Leipzig a second time in 1840-1841, when he composed his Caprice in E for pianoforte and orchestra and his overture Die Waldnymphe (The Wood Nymphs).

He settled in London, devoting himself chiefly to practical teaching. In 1844 he married Mary Anne, daughter of Captain James Wood, R.N. He was made Professor of Music, Cambridge University in 1856, the year in which he was engaged as permanent conductor of the Philharmonic Society. This latter post he held until 1866, when he became principal of the Royal Academy of Musicmarker.

Owing to his professional duties, his latter years were not creatively fertile, and what he then wrote was scarcely equal to the productions of his youth. The principal charm of Bennett's compositions (not to mention his absolute mastery of the musical form) consists in the tenderness of their conception, rising occasionally to sweetest lyrical intensity.

Except for opera, Bennett tried his hand at almost all the different forms of vocal and instrumental writing. His best works include piano music (his three sketches, The Lake, The Millstream and The Fountain, and his third piano concerto); orchestral music (his Symphony in G minor, and his overture The Naiads); and vocal music (his cantata The May Queen, written for the inaugural Leeds Festival in 1858). For the Golden Jubilee of the Philharmonic Society he wrote the overture Paradise and the Peri in 1862. He also wrote a sacred cantata, The Woman of Samaria, first performed at the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival in 1867.

In 1870 the University of Oxfordmarker conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.C.L. A year later he was knighted, and in 1872 he received a public testimonial before a large audience at St James's Hall, London, the money subscribed being devoted to the foundation of a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Shortly before his death he produced a sonata called The Maid of Orleans, an elaborate piece of programme-music based on Schiller's tragedy. He died at his house in St John's Woodmarker, Londonmarker.

Bennett has an extensive musical family, which has continued long after his passing. He is the great great Grandfather of Fightstar (And formerly Busted) frontman Charlie Simpson.

List of principal works

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 1 (1832)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in E flat, Op. 4 (1833)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 9 (1834)
Piano Concerto in F minor (1836)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 19 (1838)
Piano Concerto (Concert-Stuck), A minor (1841-3)
Parisina (Overture), Op. 3 (1835)
The Naiads (Overture), Op. 15 (1836)
Die Waldnymphe (Overture), Op. 20 (1838)
Paradise and the Peri (Fantasy Overture), Op. 42 (1862)
Symphony in G minor, Op. 43 (1864, revised 1867) (commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society)

Three Musical Sketches, Op. 10 (1836)
Three Impromptus, Op. 12 (1836)
Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 13 (1837)
Three Romances, Op. 14 (1836-7)
Fantasie in A major, Op. 16 (1837)
Suite de Pieces, Op. 24 (1841)
Four Pieces for piano, Op. 28
Sonata, 'The Maid of Orleans', Op. 46 (1869-73)

Sextet for piano and strings in F sharp minor, Op. 8 (1835)
Chamber Trio for piano, violin and cello, Op. 26 (1839)
Sonata Duo, cello & piano, Op. 31 (1852)

Choral Works:
The May Queen (A Pastoral), Op. 39 (1858)
The Woman of Samaria (Sacred Cantata), Op. 44 (1867-8)

Six Songs: First Set, Op. 23 (1834-42)
Six Songs: Second Set, Op. 35 (1837-44)

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