William Sterndale Bennet

A montage-in-sound of music written by William Sterndale Bennett
Featuring the choirs of the Temple Church, St Mark’s North Audley Street, Bishop Wordsworth School
  & Magdalen College Oxford.

1. “O Lord, thou hast searched me out”
Choir of the Temple Church with George Thalben-Ball (organ). Private recording made in the Temple Church, 1961
2. “God is a spirit”
Choir of St Mark’s North Audley Street, directed by Maurice Vinden. Parlophone 78rpm record, 1931
3. “The Carol Singers”
Bishop Wordsworth School Choir (Salisbury), directed by Stephen Abbott. CD 1999. This little ditty is by T C Sterndale Bennett, the grandson of William.
4. “In thee, O Lord”
Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, directed by Bernard Rose. Private recording during Evensong, 3 February 1978.
5. “Remember now thy Creator”
Duet sung by Harold Langston & Denis Barthel, choristers at the Temple Church, with George Thalben-Ball (organ). Very rare HMV test pressing which was never issued as a gramophone record.  Recorded 3 July 1930.

Sir William Sterndale Bennett (13 April 1816 – 1 February 1875) was an English composer, pianist, conductor and music educator. At the age of ten Bennett became a choirster at King's College, Cambridge and similtaneously admitted to the London Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where he remained for ten years.

By the age of twenty, he had begun to make a reputation as a concert pianist, and his compositions received high praise. Among those impressed by Bennett was the German composer Felix Mendelssohn, who invited him to Leipzig. There Bennett became friendly with Robert Schumann, who shared Mendelssohn's admiration for his compositions. Bennett spent three winters composing and performing in Leipzig.

In 1837 Bennett began to teach at the RAM, with which he was associated for most of the rest of his life. For twenty years he taught there, later also teaching at Queen's College, London. Amongst his pupils during this period were Arthur Sullivan, Hubert Parry, and Tobias Matthay. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s he composed little, although he performed as a pianist and directed the Philharmonic Society for ten years.  He also actively promoted concerts of chamber music.

​​In 1858 Bennett returned to composition, but his later works, though popular, were considered old-fashioned and did not arouse as much critical enthusiasm as his youthful compositions had done.

In 1867 he composed the oratorio 'The Woman of Samaria' from which comes this perfectly formed minature 'God is a Spirit' sung in a ravishing performance by Hereford Cathedral Choir, directed by Geriant Owen in 2016.

He was Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge from 1856 until 1875. In 1866 he became Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, rescuing it from closure, and remained in this position until his death. He was knighted in 1871. He died in London in 1875 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

'God is a spirit : Hereford Cathedral, 2016

Benet had a significant influence on English music, not solely as a composer but also as a teacher, as a promoter of standards of musical education and as an important figure in London concert life. In recent years, appreciation of Bennett's compositions has been rekindled and a number of his works, including a symphony, his piano concerti, some vocal music and many of his piano compositions, have been recorded.