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(5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley

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(5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley

(b London, 14 Aug 1810; d Gloucester,19 April 1876). Composer and organist, illegitimate son of (4) Samuel Wesley and Sarah Suter. He was the greatest composer in the English cathedral tradition between Purcell and Stanford.

1. Life.

2. Works.




Wesley: (5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley

1. Life.

He was named after his father and his father’s hero, Bach. In his eighth year he was elected a chorister of the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, under William Hawes, and subsequently also sang regularly in the royal chapel at Brighton, delighting George IV. Like other choristers he was often taken by Hawes to sing at St Paul’s Cathedral and at the Madrigal Society and the Concert of Ancient Music. After leaving the choir in 1826 he held several appointments as organist in the London area and assisted his master, Hawes, both as pianist and ‘conductor of the chorus’ at the English Opera House at the Lyceum, Adelphi and Olympic Theatres (1828–32) and as organist in the Lenten Oratorios (1830–32). At the former he was responsible for the overture and ‘melo-dramatick’ music to Edward Fitzball’s drama The Dilosk Gatherer; at the latter he had a setting of the Benedictus performed. During this period he published his first compositions – various songs and pieces for piano and organ, as well as his earliest works for the church. His father and Thomas Adams were both early influences on his work.

In 1832 Wesley left London and began his long career as a cathedral organist, interrupted only by his term at Leeds Parish Church. The most complete data available about his various appointments are given here:St James’s Chapel, Hampstead Road: appointed 25 March 1826

St Giles, Camberwell: appointed 8 Jan 1829, resigned Nov 1832
St John, Waterloo Road: appointed 29 Nov 1829, resigned 27 March 1831
Hampton Parish Church, Middlesex (evening organist only): appointed 21 Nov 1831, resigned early Sept 1832
Hereford Cathedral: appointed 10 July 1832, began Sept 1832, resigned 2 Sept 1835
Exeter Cathedral: appointed 15 Aug 1835, began 7 Oct 1835, resigned 4 Jan 1842
Holy Trinity Chapel, Exmouth (evening organist only): appointed Easter 1837, resigned Easter 1838
Leeds Parish Church: began Feb 1842, resigned 1849
Winchester Cathedral: appointed 21 Aug 1849, began 5 Oct 1849, resigned 23 Feb 1865
Winchester College (Sunday evenings only): appointed Dec 1850, resigned 1865
Gloucester Cathedral: appointed 18 February 1865, began 24 June 1865, died 19 April 1876

His appointment to Hereford probably owed something to the influence of the recently appointed dean, John Merewether, who had formerly been incumbent at Hampton. Although Wesley was later to regret the move, it had a remarkable effect on his development as a composer: for the opening of the rebuilt cathedral he wrote his famous anthem The wilderness and the solitary place, first heard on 10 November 1832. Later in the same year he submitted it for the Gresham Prize Medal, but it was too late for consideration and was held over until the following year. Its contemporary style failed to satisfy the judges, one of whom, R.J.S. Stevens, wrote: ‘It is a clever thing, but not cathedral music’. Crotch also condemned it, but it was to prove a landmark in the history of English cathedral music. Another of his famous anthems, Blessed be the God and Father, was written for an Easter Day service at Hereford at which, because of the particular circumstances (all of the adult members of the choir being in Holy Orders and holding livings), ‘only Trebles and a single Bass voice’ were available; it was for similar forces that Wesley first wrote the settings of the Nicene Creed and Responses to the Commandments (no.2), later published in his Service in E.

By virtue of his office Wesley conducted the Three Choirs Festival at Hereford in September 1834, when a manuscript overture (probably that in E major), the sacred song Abraham’s Offering and a setting of the Sanctus were performed. As his predecessor’s pension was deducted from his salary he received only £60 a year, which he supplemented by teaching – a ‘degrading occupation’ in his view. His runaway marriage at the village of Ewyas Harold to the dean’s sister, Mary Anne, on 4 May 1835 doubtless accelerated his departure. Although he arrived in Exeter with high hopes and initially enjoyed an amicable working relationship with the dean and chapter, this quickly soured after the appointment of the precentor as dean in 1839 and thereafter he was almost constantly at loggerheads with his clerical superiors. Despite his growing reputation as organist and composer (attested by Gauntlett’s articles in The Musical World, 1836), there were few opportunities except cathedral organistships open to him. He therefore decided to take the degrees of BMus and DMus at the University of Oxford, submitting his anthem O Lord, thou art my God as an exercise and graduating on 21 June 1839. Thus qualified for an academic appointment he was a candidate for the Reid professorship at Edinburgh in 1841, 1844 and 1845, for the Oxford professorship in 1848, and for that at Cambridge in 1856; but in every case he withdrew or was defeated. Such appointments were still based on influence more than merit and Wesley’s abrasive personality had deprived him of the influence his ability deserved.

In addition to his work at the cathedral Wesley was involved with both the Devon Glee Club and the Devon Madrigal Society, frequently chairing the monthly meetings of the latter. He also organized a series of subscription concerts for the 1836–7 season and attempted to form an orchestral society in 1837 and a choral society a year later. None of these ventures was particularly successful, and he was further frustrated by the apparent refusal of the chapter to pay for the copying of the parts for two further large-scale anthems, Let us lift up our heart and To my request and earnest cry. As a result neither received a single performance. In such circumstances and with his relations with the cathedral chapter under increasing strain, the offer of the post of organist at Leeds Parish Church – where he had opened the organ on 18 October 1841 – was one he could not refuse, although he was often later to regret leaving Exeter. Provocative to the last, he unilaterally chose to leave his articled pupil, William Spark, to serve out his notice by proxy and then made repeated demands to the chapter for money he claimed was owed to him. Their attitude towards him is probably summed up in the words of the chapter clerk: ‘The most to be avoided man I ever met with’.

At Leeds the situation seemed highly promising for Wesley. The high church (but not Tractarian) vicar, Dr Hook, had stimulated the building of a new church, equipped with choir stalls and a new organ. Although unmusical himself, Hook was determined to introduce fully choral services on cathedral lines, and at his own financial risk had formed an efficient surpliced choir that already put most cathedral choirs to shame; Wesley was offered a salary of £200, guaranteed for ten years. His enthusiastic reception stimulated another masterpiece, the service in E (begun at Hereford and continued at Exeter), while he also completed his two sets of Three Pieces for a Chamber Organ, revised his Selection of Psalm Tunes and prepared a pointed psalter with chants. The service was published in 1845 with a lengthy preface in which he argued the need for reform in cathedral music and vented some of his bitterness against cathedral clergy in a way that probably did more harm to himself than good to his cause. In December 1847 Wesley, whose great hobby was fishing, fell and suffered a severe fracture of his right leg while returning from an expedition to the river Rye near Helmsley, Yorkshire. During his convalescence he composed the anthems Cast me not away and The face of the Lord, both of which contain references to bones and injury: Spark believed that the crunching discords at the passage ‘the bones which thou hast broken’ in the former are more than a metaphorical expression of pain.

As at Exeter, Wesley initially took a prominent part in local music-making, but following the demise in 1845 of the ‘new’ Leeds choral society (which he conducted) he was seen less in public; that the ‘old’ choral society meanwhile prospered under his rival, R.S. Burton, must have irked him greatly. He continued to appear as an organist, however, and gave two highly acclaimed performances as solo organist at the Birmingham Festivals of 1843 and 1849; he also gave two series of lectures on choral music at the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool (1844 and 1846), in which he continued his campaign for the improvement of cathedral music and the better treatment of church musicians. Its culmination was reached with his two outspoken pamphlets (A Few Words on Cathedral Music and Reply to the Inquiries of the Cathedral Commissioners) in which few people’s feelings were spared. His relations with Hook gradually cooled: ‘Disappointed as I was with Dr Hook & his powers to either aid his Church Music or me – I soon bitterly repented of leaving Exeter’. His departure from Leeds was attended by another dispute, this time with his successor, R.S. Burton, over the sale of his teaching practice; he eventually won an action for £100 at York Assizes.

He took the Winchester appointment partly in order to send his sons to Winchester College. The cathedral chapter, aware of his reputation, tried to anticipate possible difficulties by laying down rules about the organist’s duties and attendance; he was required to agree to these conditions, and was then offered the position at the favourable salary of £150. In December 1850 the college organistship was also offered him at a salary of £80, for which he was required only to play for the Sunday evening service. Wesley’s attendance at the cathedral was satisfactory at first, and for several years relations were harmonious. During this period he persuaded the chapter to buy a new organ, consisting of about three-quarters of the instrument built by Willis for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and this was installed in 1854. Concurrently Willis had been working on the organ Wesley had designed for St George’s Hall, Liverpool. Completed in 1855 (though conceived a decade earlier), it met with a mixed reception. While there was praise for the tone of the stops, Wesley was publicly taken to task over the unadventurous specification and his insistence on the old-fashioned ‘G’ compass and mean-tone tuning. He conducted his anthem The wilderness and the solitary place (with orchestral accompaniments) at the 1852 Birmingham Festival. The performance was poor and criticism of the music harsh. A protracted quarrel in the press, principally between Wesley and Gauntlett, followed. In 1853 he published by subscription his Twelve Anthems. Comprising works written during the previous 20 years, it had first been announced (as a volume of six) in 1836 and printing had begun in 1840, only to cease when the plates were destroyed by fire. Not until his convalescence at Helmsley did Wesley return to it, adding further compositions from his periods in Leeds and Winchester. ‘My published 12 anthems is my most important work’, he was later to write, and it ranks as one of the most significant church music publications in English history. Thereafter his spare time was increasingly occupied with the harmonization and composition of hymn tunes, which were published in the musical edition of Kemble’s Psalms and Hymns (1864) and, eventually, in the long-awaited European Psalmist, which also contained the largest number of chorale harmonizations by J.S. Bach yet published in England. He was also, from 10 August 1850, the first professor of organ at the Royal Academy of Music.fig.3

Following the appointment of a new precentor in 1858 the chapter minutes show signs of tension over Wesley’s performance of his duties. When in 1865 he was asked by the dean and chapter of Gloucester to judge candidates for the post of organist, he surprised all by offering to take it himself. He seems to have been no happier in the new situation. The organ was in a poor state; the choir was generally inefficient; the authorities were uncooperative. He wrote in 1870: ‘I ever regret leaving Devon, and Gloster is very objectionable. There is however no great demand for any peculiarly experienced musical ability and I must be content to rank with the low ones’. After more than 30 years Wesley found himself once again conductor of the Three Choirs Festival (1865, 1868, 1871 and 1874). At the 1871 festival he introduced Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the first time. He seems not to have been admired as a conductor; his tempos were too fast, his expression perfunctory. As an organist, however, he was still renowned; many accounts record the thrilling quality of his performances. Hubert Parry wrote after hearing him play a concluding voluntary at Gloucester in 1865: ‘He began the accompaniments in crotchets alone, and then gradually worked into quavers, then triplets and lastly semiquavers. It was quite marvellous. The powerful old subject came stalking in right and left with the running accompaniment entwined with it – all in the style of old Bach’. Wesley’s concluding years were clouded by illness and increasing bitterness, though his financial position at least had improved after the sale of most of his copyrights to Novello for £750 in 1868. Having declined the honour of knighthood, he was in 1873 granted a Civil List pension of £100 a year, which was continued after his death to his widow, until her death in 1888. In 1875 Wesley had increasing difficulty in breathing. He played the organ for the last time on Christmas Day. His will is dated 19 February 1876, and he died two months later from Bright’s Disease, after a long decline. By his own wish he was buried alongside an infant daughter in the old cemetery at Exeter.

Wesley’s professional conduct is difficult to justify, and he failed in many respects to meet the standards he laid down for others. While accusing cathedral bodies (with much justice) of failing in their duty to maintain choral music, he himself failed in that duty by persistently leaving his work to be carried out by inexperienced deputies. He condemned rival candidates for musical professorships because they had used influence instead of relying on their merits, but he offered a bribe to London critics to induce them to review his European Psalmist favourably, and asked his sister to try to influence J.W. Davison of The Times ‘through some intimate friend of his’. He seems to have suffered from acute paranoia in his dealings with superiors and rivals. Yet his pupils and choir members seem to have loved him, and he was unfailingly kind to younger musicians. Parry, in his account of him, made no mention of the eccentricities that have given rise to so many anecdotes; his pupil Kendrick Pyne also dismissed them: ‘The most aprocryphal tales are told as to his eccentricites. I lived with him for some time and do not share in the view. He was moody, often absent-minded, nervous, and irritable; but not more than one would expect from an artist, who is usually not accustomed to hide his feelings’. While his opinions on musical matters were unconventional and sometimes irrational, he was not alone in his lack of sympathy for most early English cathedral music or in his admiration for that of Spohr. He admired Bach, and regarded his own father as one of the few representatives of the ‘pure style’, although he seldom imitated this in his own music. He hated Gregorian psalm tones (though he used a tone-like melody in his Chant Service in F) and was in general hostile to the Tractarian movement; he was contemptuous of the sentimental hymnody of Dykes and Monk. He had a violent dislike of equal temperament and revealed his conservatism by his attachment to the extended English ‘G’ compass for the organ (which allowed greater use of the left hand in octaves when accompanying vocal music). Yet his Service in E and the anthem The wilderness and the solitary place not only modulate freely, but are written in a key which brings out the worst defects of the old mean-tone temperament. When a correspondent pointed out this inconsistency in The Musical Standard, Wesley was evasive in his reply. It is difficult to see how he can have preferred to have his own music performed in such a temperament.

Though his compositions have won wide acclaim, contemporaries asserted that – at least as far as the organ was concerned – his improvisations were even more imaginative. The Musical Examiner in 1843 pronounced him, ‘without disparagement to other men of genius – and before all to Dr. Mendelssohn’, to be the ‘greatest organist now living’. The poet T.E. Brown imagined Wesley appointed organist in heaven by acclaim of the angelic orders; and when Wesley played there,

I heard the mighty bars
Of thunder-gusts, that shook heaven’s dome,
And moved the balanced stars.

Even if such tributes are exaggerated, Wesley’s powers were sufficient to induce even cathedral chapters to overlook, as far as they could, the grave defects of his personality and behaviour.

Wesley: (5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley

2. Works.

In youth Wesley tried various kinds of composition, but after his move to Hereford in 1832 he found his true vocation as a composer of Anglican cathedral music. In that field he concentrated his chief creative effort for the rest of his life, though he occasionally used his mastery of choral writing for secular purposes, as in his glees and the chorus The Praise of Music. Among his other works are two deeply felt three-movement ‘sacred songs’ for baritone and orchestra (Abraham’s Offering and I have been young and now am old), some fine pieces for organ (particularly the Introduction and Fugue in C minor and the Andante in F from the first set of Three Pieces for a Chamber Organ), a virtuoso March and Rondo for piano and, in A Selection of Psalm Tunes, some outstanding harmonizations of hymn tunes.

Settings of the daily canticles had reached a low point by 1830. They had changed very little in outward character since the late 17th century, and their performance had long ceased to be anything more than a tedious duty. Wesley’s great Service in E, begun at Hereford and completed at Leeds, showed how these familiar texts could be made vehicles for imagination. Written on a scale rarely attempted since the 17th century and with an independent accompaniment which allowed the organ to make its own contribution to the musical argument, it forms a towering monument in the history of English church music. It was well timed to satisfy the growing demand for more meaningful worship in the church and became a direct model for the best settings of the later 19th century. Wesley discovered a practical problem, however: a fully worked-out setting of this kind is too long for frequent liturgical use,

designed as it is for performance during the very brief space of time allotted to our daily Cathedral worship; a period so brief – while the subjects to be treated are so various, of such grand universal applications – as necessarily to divest composition of its ordinary features; rendering almost every species of amplification of a particular subject either difficult or impossible; and this, too, in connection with words which seem, in the musician’s judgement, to demand of him the most exalted efforts of which his art is capable.

His other services are attempts, as he said, ‘to attain the utmost brevity without sacrificing Expression in setting Te Deum &c. to Music’. But the restriction on his creative process was too severe, and these shorter settings have little character.

In the anthems, on the other hand, Wesley was free to choose his texts. In fact he allowed himself much greater licence than had been usual, putting together verses or even portions of verses from different parts of the Bible, mixing the Bible and Prayer Book translations of the psalms, sometimes incorporating parts of the liturgy or a hymn or even (in By the word of the Lord) verses from Paradise Lost. By these means he could construct a text to his own satisfaction, giving it the desired shape, imagery, dramatic contrasts and climaxes, and avoiding all ‘dead’ or perfunctory passages. There is evidence in his autographs that he sometimes shaped the text of an anthem while the composition of the music was already in progress. His strong evangelical feeling for the biblical words was closely bound up with his musical sensibility; because of this, his anthems convey a glowing sincerity that is seldom evident in the music of his immediate predecessors – or of his successors. There are moments of inspiration paralleled only in Purcell. Like Purcell’s, his church music draws freely on secular influences. The drama of both The wilderness and Blessed be the God and Father has its roots in the theatre, while the highly coloured and emotionally charged harmonic style of his mature works (seen to perfection in Let us lift up our heart and Wash me throughly) owes little to the Anglican cathedral tradition.

In short full anthems, such as Wash me throughly or Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, Wesley was able to produce some profoundly beautiful effects simply by skilful management of four or five voices in full harmony. The manner was derived from such works as Mozart’s motet Ave verum corpus; the Roman Catholic influence, absorbed through his father, was a fruitful new element here, and the detail of word-setting was comparatively unimportant. In his longer anthems, some of them almost miniature oratorios, Wesley combined several elements with new effectiveness: the ‘learned’ fugue, with touches of Bach; the ‘full’ harmonic style described above; the aria-like solo, influenced at times by Spohr’s oratorios; and a kind of recitative, sometimes sung by the men’s voices together, which was all his own. In putting these together Wesley seldom lost sight of his dramatic and devotional purpose. Ascribe unto the Lord, Let us lift up our heart, O Lord, thou art my God and The wilderness and the solitary place have a monumental integrity rare in anthems of their length.

Wesley’s achievement in these and other works is not to be underestimated. Not only had he forged a wholly individual style but, through his willingness to employ elements of the up-to-date idiom he had encountered – and used – in the concert hall and theatre, he had also succeeded in revitalizing the moribund tradition of English cathedral music. Although his early works for the church (Blessed be the God and Father, the Creed from the Service in E and Trust ye in the Lord, for example) reveal the influence of Mendelssohn and Spohr, he rarely imitated either: the well-known treble duet ‘Love one another’ from Blessed be the God and Father at first recalls Mendelssohn, but its turn of phrase and irregularity of structure are original. By 1840, however, his music had become increasingly independent of these and other influences and his mature works are characterized by strong diatonic dissonance – particularly the 9th on the mediant (ex.2, bar 13) – which can be traced to his father, the confident handling of chromaticism, and a fondness for bold harmonic effects and textures enlivened by frequent suspensions, appoggiaturas and accented passing notes. They also demonstrate a growing sympathy for the native tradition of cathedral music. The resulting amalgam of the old and the new was aptly described by Spohr: ‘The sacred music is chiefly distinguished by a noble, often even an antique style, and by richly chosen harmonies, as well as by surprisingly beautiful modulations’. Works such as the canticles from the Service in E, the bass solo ‘Thou, O Lord God’ in Let us lift up our heart or the beginning of Ascribe unto the Lord (ex.2) could be mistaken for no other composer’s work.

Because so much of Wesley’s music was written for the services of the Church of England it has never been well known on the Continent; neither is it easily placed in the wider framework of European music. Bold and courageous as many of his innovations are in the Anglican context, they are hardly advanced compared with those of Berlioz, Schumann or Chopin. Yet his music possesses great individuality and in a few pieces – the fluid, side-stepping chromaticism of Wash me throughly, for example – is remarkably forward-looking. With his vivid imagination and firm grasp of the techniques of composition Wesley could, when inspired by the devotional text, rise beyond influence or imitation to the level of genius.

Wesley: (5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley


printed works published in London unless otherwise stated

MSS autograph unless otherwise stated

org acc.

independent organ part


organ largely doubling voices

Editions: Anthems (1853) [An]The European Psalmist (1872) [EP]Original Compositions for the Organ, ed. G.M. Garrett (1893–1900) [Ga]Samuel Sebastian Wesley: Anthems, ed. P. Horton, MB, lvii (1990), lxiii (1993) [H1, H2]; 3rd vol. (forthcoming) [H3]

service music

Morning and Evening Service, E (1845): TeD, 1/7vv, org acc., 1842–3; Jub, 8/8vv, org acc., 1842–3; Ky I, 5vv, org, 1842–3; Ky II, 5vv, org, ?1833–4; San, 5vv, org, 1835–6?, GB-Lbl*; Cr, 1/4vv, org acc., ?1833–4; Mag, 6/8vv, org acc., 1842–3; Nunc, 7vv, org acc., 1842–3

Short Full Service, F, 4vv, org, c1865, H* (1869)

Chant Service, F, 4vv, org: TeD, Jub (1855); Mag, Nunc, 1845–6 (1851)

Chant Service ‘Letter B’, F, 4vv, org (1869)

Chant Service, G, 4vv, org, EP

Benedicite (triple-time chant), D, 4vv, EP

Deus misereatur, F, 4/4vv, org acc., 1858, Lbl

Responses, c1845 [lost]

Kyrie, E, 4vv, org, c1830, Lcm*

Kyrie, E, 4vv, org, c1833, Lcm*

Kyrie, Sanctus, F, 4vv, org, EP

Kyrie, f, 4vv, org, EP

Sanctus, D, 4vv, org, EP

Gloria in excelsis, C, 7vv, org, 1846–7 (1869)

Man that is born of a woman (Burial Service), 4vv, org, c1845, An, H1

anthems and hymn settings

All go to one place, 4vv, org acc. (1862) [on the death of the Prince Consort], H3

Ascribe unto the Lord, 7/4vv, org acc., 1851, An; orch acc., 1865, Lcm*, both versions H2

At thy right hand, 4vv, org, 1869, Lbl*, EP [chorus for S. Wesley’s duet, ‘O remember not’], H3

Blessed be the God and Father, 1/5vv, org acc., 1833–4, H*, An, H1

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, 4vv, org acc., 1868 (1868), H3

Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, 5vv, org, 1848–9; ed. in Three Introits (1906), H3

Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no sin, 4 male vv, org, copyist MS Lbl*, EP, H3

By the word of the Lord, 4/5vv, org acc., 1854, Lcm*, inc., H3

Cast me not away, 6vv, org, 1848, An, H3

Give the king thy judgments, 6/7vv, org acc., 1863, Lcm* (1870), H3

Glory to God on high, 6vv, org, c1831, Lcm*, H1

God be merciful unto us, 4/4vv, org acc., 1866, Lbl* (1867), H3

Hear thou in heaven, 5vv, org, 1848–9; ed. in Three Introits (1906), H3

I am thine, O save me, 5vv, org acc. (1857), H3

I will arise, D, 4vv, org, 1869, Lbl*, EP, H3

I will arise, F, 4vv, org, c1869, Lbl*, H3

I will wash my hands in innocency, 4vv, org, ?1849; ed. in Three Introits (1906), H3

Let us lift up our heart, 5/8vv, org acc., c1836, An, H1

Let us now praise famous men ‘Letter A’, 1/4vv, org acc., 1874, MS at Clifton College (1874), H3

Let us now praise famous men ‘Letter B’, 4/4vv, org acc., 1873, MS at Clifton College (1875), H3

Lord of all power and might, 4vv, org, Lbl* (1873), H3

O give thanks unto the Lord, 1/5vv, org acc., c1835, An, H1

O God, whose nature, 4vv, org, c1831, H* (1831), H1

O how amiable, 4vv, org acc., last section (‘The Lord will give grace and mercy’) Lbl* (1874), H3

O Lord my God, 4vv, org, c1850, An, H3

O Lord, thou art my God, 5/8vv, org acc. [DMus exercise], c1836 (1840), An, H1

Praise the Lord, O my soul, 5/5vv, org acc., 1861 (1862), H3

Praise ye the Lord, ?4vv, ?org, c1873, lost

The face of the Lord, 8/5vv, org, 1848, An, H3

The Lord is my shepherd, 2/4vv, org acc. (1875), H3

The wilderness and the solitary place, 4/4vv, pf/org acc. [for the reopening of Hereford Cathedral organ], 1832, H* (1840), An; orch acc. [for Birmingham Festival], 1852, Lcm, both versions H2

Though round thy radiant throne [charity hymn], 2/2 female vv, org acc., c1827, Lbl*, H1

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, 5vv, org acc., c1850, An, H3

To my request and earnest cry, 1/8vv, org acc., c1836, Lbl*, inc., movts 1, 2 (1840); ed. (1906), H1

Trust ye in the Lord, 1/4vv, org acc., c1835, Lcm* inc., H1

Turn thee unto me, 4vv, org [chorus for S. Wesley’s duet ‘Oh deliver me’], EP, H3

Wash me throughly, 1/4vv, org acc., c1840, An, H1

Wherewithal shall a young man, 1/4vv, org acc., c1870–75, Lbl*, inc. (1875), H3

182 further hymn tunes and 39 chants, incl. 142 tunes and 26 chants pubd in EP; for full pubn details see Horton (1983), 357–83

2 tunes, D, carillon, 1874 [for Holsworthy Church, Devon]; 1 arr. with variations, see organ

latin sacred music

Gloria in excelsis, inc., E, 4vv, orch, c1830, GB-Lcm*

Benedictus qui venit, A, S, A, T, B, orch/pf, 1832, Lcm*

Agnus Dei, G, S, orch, c1830–32, Lbl

Sanctus, perf. Hereford 1834, lost

secular choruses, glees, partsongs

5 male-voice glees [4 for annual competitions at the Gentlemen’s Glee Club, Manchester]: I wish to tune my quivering lyre (Byron), 5vv, 1833, GB-Mp* (1839); At that dread hour (W. Linley: Faith), 4vv, 1834, Mp (1839); Fill me, boy, as deep a draught (T. Moore), 5vv, 1834, Mp; When fierce conflicting passions (Byron, after Euripides), 5vv, ?1837 (1839); [text unknown] (W.H. Bellamy), 1838, lost

Arising from the deep, 5vv (1874)

Millions of spiritual creatures (J. Milton), S, A, T, B, orch, 1835, Lcm*

Shall I tell you?, 4vv, vc, pf (1862)

Then sing we in chorus (T. Oliphant: The Praise of Music), S, A, T, B, 10vv, 1872 (1874)

When from the great creator’s hand (W.H. Bellamy: Ode to Labour), S, S, A, T, B, 5vv, orch, 1864, Lcm* (1865) [for the North London Working Men’s Industrial Exhibition]

When the pale moon (C.A. Burroughs: The Mermaid), 4vv (1874)

songs (sacred and secular)

Almighty God, give us grace (W.H. Bellamy), S, pf, 1848 (1848)

Blessed are the dead (Byron), S, pf (1835)

Butterfly, butterfly, brilliant and bright (Lady F. Hastings: The Butterfly), 1v, pf (1872–6)

Did I possess the magic art (S. Rogers), 1v, pf (1835)

For Charity’s Sake (M.F. Tupper), 1v, pf (Liverpool, 1849)

God moves in a mysterious way (W. Cowper), 1v, pf (c1832) [no copy known; advertised in The Musical World, i (1836), cover to no.4]

I beheld her from my casement (after P.J. de Béranger: The Smiling Spring), 1v, pf (1832)

I have been young, B, orch, c1848, perf. Gloucester 1850, GB-Lcm*

Most blessed Lord (Bellamy), S, pf, 1848 (1848)

O Lord Jesu Christ (Bellamy), B, pf, 1848 (1848), ed. in MB, xliii

Orphan hours, the year is dead (P.B. Shelley), S/T, pf, c1836, Lbl* (1867)

Shall I tell you, 1v, vc, pf (1868) [version of chorus listed above]

Take thou my son (Bellamy: Abraham’s Offering), B, orch, perf. Hereford 1834, Lcm*, inc.

The bruised reed (Bellamy), S/T, pf, 1834, Lcm*, Mr* (1839)

There be none of beauty’s daughters (Byron), S/T, pf, (1835); orchd, perf. Worcester 1839, Lcm, Lcm*, inc.

There breathes a living fragrance, S/T, pf, 1833, Lbl

They tempt me from my native land (Bellamy: Song of the Seamstress), S, orch, 1864, lost

We sat down and wept (Byron: By the Rivers of Babylon), S/T, pf, Lbl* (1867), ed. in MB, xliii

Wert thou, like me, in life’s low vale (W. Scott), S/T, pf, 1832, Lcm* (1836)

When we two parted (Byron), S/T, pf, Lbl (1832) [no copy known]

Young Bacchus in his lusty prime, T, 3 male vv, orch, c1829, Lcm*

You told me once, 1v, pf (1831)


Ballet music, ? for an opera, c1825, GB-Cfm*

The Dilosk Gatherer (E. Fitzball), ov. and incid music, London, Olympic, 30 July 1832, Lbl


March, B, c1830, GB-Lcm*

Symphony, 1 movt, C, c1834, Lcm*

Overture, E, Lbl, inc., perf. Hereford Festival, 1834 (attrib. (4) Samuel Wesley in some sources)

Concertante, 12 wind insts, scheduled for Gloucester Festival, 1835, but not perf., lost


Variations on God Save the King, 1829 (1831, 2/1869); Ga

Larghetto, f, c1835, GB-Lbl* (1893)

Introduction and Fugue, c, ?1835, in Studio for the Organ, i (1836, 2/1869) [no further numbers pubd]; Ga

A Selection of Psalm Tunes (1834, 2/1842); Ga

3 Pieces for a Chamber Organ, bk 1 (1842): Andante, E, 4/4, Andante, F, Choral Song; Ga

3 Pieces for a Chamber Organ, bk 2 (1842–3): Andante, G, [Larghetto], f, Andante, E, 3/4; Ga

Andante, D, 1846, P. Horton’s private collection, London

Andante cantabile, G (1864); Ga [for organ opening at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, Nov 1863]

Andante, C, org/hmn, Musical Standard, xiv (1871), 40–41; ed. J.E. West as ‘Meditation’ (1909)

Voluntary, d/F (1872); Ga

Andante, C, Lbl, ed. T.R. Matthews: The Village Organist, ii (1872)

Holsworthy Church Bells, air with variations, F, 1874, Lbl* (1877); tune orig. for carillon, see anthems and hymn settings

2 Andantes: A, e, Lbl* (1877)


Waltz, The Harmonicon, viii (1830)

Introduction and Rondo on an Air from Spohr’s Azor and Zemira, ?c1831 [no copy known; advertised Leeds Intelligencer, 1842]

Original Air, with Variations, ded. to J.B. Cramer (c1831) [no copy known; reviewed The Harmonicon, x (1832), 15, and The Atlas, vii (1832), 92]

Rondo, ‘La violette’, ?c1832 [no copy known; advertised Leeds Intelligencer, 1842]

Dance, D, c1833–4, GB-Lcm*

Rondo, G, 1834, Lcm* (1835–6)

Piece, e, 1834, Lcm*

Presto, inc., c, 1834, Lcm*

March, c, and Rondo, C, (1842), ed. in LPS, xvi (1985)

Jeux d’esprit, quadrilles à la Herz, 2 or 4 hands (1847)

editions and arrangements

L. Kozeluch: Air with Variations, arr. organ, c1830, GB-Lcm

L. Spohr: The Witches’ Rondo (Faust), arr. pf, c1832, Cfm

J. Connolly: Oh when do I wish for thee, song, pf acc. by Wesley (1832)

E. Harwood: Vital spark of heav’nly flame, set piece, arr. 1v, pf (1832)

Melodia Sacra [selections from Handel and Haydn], arr. pf, 12 nos. (c1834 [no copy known; advertised Musical World, i (1836), cover to no.4])

The Psalter … with Chants, ed. (Leeds, 1843)

Harmonizations of 4 tunes in J. Hullah: Psalter (1843)

W.A. Mozart: songs, duets & trios, 36 nos., ed. (1849–51)

W. Owen: ‘By the streams of Babylon’/‘Wrth Afonydd Babilon’, anthem, org/pf acc. by Wesley (1854)

E. Stephen: The Storm of Tiberias/Ystorm Tiberias, orat, org/pf acc. by Wesley (1854)

Mozart: Ten Songs, ed. (1861)

The Hundredth Psalm, SATB, org, with varied harmonies, 1856 (1864) [also orch, lost]

S. Wesley: ‘Thou, O God, art praised in Sion’, anthem, ed. (1865)

The European Psalmist, ed. (1872) [EP]

Spohr: Psalm 24, ed. (1874)

Wesley: (5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley


Preface to A Selection of Psalm Tunes [for organ] (London, 2/1842)

Notes for Liverpool lectures on church music (MS, 1844, GB-Lcm 2041f)

Preface to Service in E major (London, 1845)

A Few Words on Cathedral Music (London, 1849)

Reply to the Inquiries of the Cathedral Commissioners Relative to the Improvement in the Music of Divine Worship in Cathedrals (London, 1854)

Words of Anthems Used in Cathedral and Other Churches (Gloucester, ?1869)

Wesley: (5) Samuel Sebastian Wesley


DNB (F.G. Edwards)

Letters from and to Wesley, GB-Cfm 26E, Lbl Add.35019, Add.69435, Lcm 3052–61, 3063–4, 3066, 3071, 3074–4004

Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings relating to Wesley, Lbl Add.35020

List of Wesley’s works, partly autograph, Lcm 4039

Morning Post (11 and 17 March 1823)

H.J. Gauntlett: ‘English Ecclesiastical Composers of the Present Age’, Musical World, ii (1836), 113–20

W. Spark: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, MT, xvii (1876), 490–92

G.J. Stevenson: Memorials of the Wesley Family (London, 1876)

W. Spark: Musical Memories (London, 1888)

G.M. Garrett: ‘S.S. Wesley’s Organ Compositions’, MT, xxxv (1894), 446–9

J.K. Pyne: ‘Wesleyana’,MT, xl (1899), 376–81

F.G.E [Edwards]: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, MT, xli (1900), 297–302, 369–74, 452–6

G. Haddock: Some Early Musical Recollections (London, 1906)

J.S. Bumpus: ‘The Church Compositions of Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, Musical News, xxxix (1910), 138–41, 159–60, 179–81, 199–200, 224–6, 240–41

R.R. Terry: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, A Forgotten Psalter and Other Essays (London, 1929)

J.K. Pyne: ‘Dr. Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, English Church Music, v (1935), 4–8

G.W. Spink: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley: a Biography’, MT, lxxviii (1937), 44–6, 149–50, 239–40, 345–7, 432, 438–9, 536–8

H.C. Colles: ‘S.S. Wesley’, Essays and Lectures (London, 1945)

A.J. Hiebert: The Anthems and Services of Samuel Sebastian Wesley (diss., George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, TN, 1965)

E. Routley: The Musical Wesleys (London, 1968/R)

A. Rannie: The Story of Music at Winchester College, 1394–1969 (Winchester, 1969)

B. Rainbow: The Choral Revival in the Anglican Church 1839–1872 (London, 1970)

W. Shaw: ‘The Achievement of S.S. Wesley’, MT, cxvii (1976), 303–4

W. Shaw: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley: Prolegomenon to an Imagined Book’, English Church Music, xlvi (1976), 22–30

P. Chappell: Dr. S.S. Wesley (Great Wakering, 1977)

N. Temperley, ed.: Music in Britain: the Romantic Age 1800–1914 (London, 1981), 193–9, 274, 420–22, 446

P. Horton: The Music of Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) (diss., U. of Oxford,1983)

W.J. Gatens: Victorian Church Music in Theory and in Practice (Cambridge, 1986), chap.7

D. Gedge: ‘The Reforms of S.S. Wesley’, The Organ, lxvii (1988), 126–36, 180–93; lxviii (1989), 41–51

P. Horton: ‘Samuel Sebastian Wesley at Leeds’, The Lost Chord: Essays on Victorian Music, ed. N. Temperley (Bloomington, IN, 1989), 89–101

N. Thistlethwaite: The Making of the Victorian Organ (Cambridge, 1990)

W. Shaw: The Succession of Organists (Oxford, 1991), 125–7

P. Horton: ‘“An Organ should be an Organ”’: S.S. Wesley and the Organ in St George's Hall, Liverpool’, JBIOS, xxii (1998), 84–125

P. Horton: ‘The Unknown Wesley: the Early Instrumental and Secular Vocal Music of Samuel Sebastian Wesley’, Nineteenth-Century British Music Studies, i, ed. B. Zon (Aldershot, 1999), 134–78

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