Magazine article Musical Times

IN MEMORIAM: Stanley Sadie

Magazine article Musical Times

IN MEMORIAM: Stanley Sadie

Article excerpt

For four decades, from the mid19605 to his death in March this year, Stanley Sadie was at the centre of music criticism and scholarship in Great Britain [writes Barry Millington\. His editorship of the New Grove dictionaries (from 1970, emeritus editor from 1999) ensured that his was one of the most influential presences in scholarly writing on music in that period.

Born in London, he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied under Thurston Dart, Charles Cudworth and Patrick Hadley. For a few years (1957-65) he taught at Trinity College of Music, London, but he soon discovered his métier as a writer, contributing concurrently to The Times (1964-81), The Gramophone (from 1965) and The Musical Times, of which he was editor from 196710 1987.

Stanley reviewed for The Times in an era when profound musical knowledge and the ability to write with style and discernment were not considered limitations. His prose was crisp and waspish, but balanced and well informed, and he was able to deliver an authoritative opinion on a wide range of musical events. I remember thinking, as I read yet another polished critique of a B Minor Mass we had both attended, that I would never be able to emulate the fusion of musical judgment, literary skills and awareness of performing practice issues that Stanley managed to encapsulate in those 500 words. Perhaps I never have, but he gave me the confidence to believe I could, and passed on many a trick of the trade in the process.

It was Stanley who engineered my début for The Times in 1977, just as he had given me my first . journalistic opportunity in MT a year or two earlier, at John TyrrelPs suggestion. Previous to that he had given me my first real job, as a proof-reader, when I arrived, with a music degree but little besides, on the doorstep of the Grove offices in Holborn one summer's day in 1974. I mention all this because it was entirely typical of Stanley: indeed, one sometimes wonders whether there are any musicologists or writers active today whose lives have not been touched in some way by his multitudinous and far-reaching endeavours.

The transfer of editorship of MT from Andrew Porter to Stanley Sadie in 1967 was a smooth one. Stanley had joined the journal the previous year as an assistant editor and he was to inherit an impressive stable of contributors. In the editorial of his first issue (July 1967) he characteristically promised that 'any changes will be more a matter of evolution than revolution' - characteristic in that the formula embodied a philosophy of life as well. That first editorial also delivered some pungent views on subjects such as music on television (he introduced a regular column on the topic), the proposed site for the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room and more besides. (Three years earlier, a heartfelt plea in the same journal was to ring down the decades: 'Cannot something be done about the Festival Hall's acoustics during its coming close season?')

The inherited roster of writers was soon to be fertilised by rising talent, however, and a glance at the pages of MT in the 19705 and 19803 is sufficient to ascertain the calibre of contributors covering a wide range of specialisms.

But Stanley's most monumental achievement, and the work for which he will be remembered longest, remains New Grove. The two editions he masterminded, the 2o-volume edition of 1980 and the 29volume edition of 2001 (with John Tyrrell as Executive Editor), spawned multiple offspring - indeed, an extended family. …

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