Sir John Stainer (6 June 1840 – 31 March 1901) was an English composer and organist whose music, though not generally much performed today was very popular during his lifetime. His work as choir trainer and organist set standards for Anglican church music that are still influential. He was also active as an academic, becoming Heather Professor of Music at Oxford.
Stainer was born in Southwark, London in 1840, the son of a cabinet maker. He became a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral when aged ten and was appointed to the position of organist at St Michael's College, Tenbury at the age of sixteen. He later became organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, and subsequently organist at St Paul's Cathedral. When he retired due to his poor eyesight and deteriorating health, he returned to Oxford to become Professor of Music at the university. He died unexpectedly while on holiday in Italy in 1901.
At the age of sixteen, he was appointed by Sir Frederick Ouseley to the post of organist at the newly founded St. Michael's College, Tenbury. About this time he wrote several anthems, the most successful of which was "I saw the Lord", a bolder and more original work in a more contemporary style. In 1860 he became organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, and, organist of St. Paul's Cathedral in London in 1872.
His music is now rarely performed, but at it's best are true classics of the English tradition.
Despite the fact that Stainer was a superb organist, he left little of substance for the instrument. He composed twelve fine pieces (two groups of six), which were published by Novello in 1897.
"Adagio" is the 3rd in the series of six pieces. It is very "piano-like" in the way it makes its effect, but not really "pianistic" (except for one passage), the music is calmly expressive, feeling like a work from Brahms (or such) perhaps, although probably not rising to that level of "sophistication."
The score is attached below, as well as several photographs of John Stainer.