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Sadie, Stanley John, 1930-2005 (musicologist and music critic)



Stanley Sadie was born on 30 October 1930 in London, the only son of David Sadie, a silk manufacturer's agent, and his wife, Deborah, née Simons; he had one older sister. He was of Jewish descent. He was educated at St Paul's School, London, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he read music under Thurston Dart, Charles Cudworth, and Patrick Hadley; he graduated BA MusB in 1953, and PhD in 1958. His thesis was on eighteenth-century British chamber music, a subject about which little had hitherto been discovered. As a schoolboy he had played the clarinet in the RAF central band; he went on to become an accomplished and active bassoonist. On 10 December 1953 he married Adèle Bloom, formerly Simmons (1931–1978), a hospital committee clerk. They had two sons and a daughter.

Sadie taught at Trinity College of Music, London, from 1957 to 1965, and in 1964 joined ‘The Times’ as a music critic, reviewing regularly for the paper until 1981. In 1966 he was appointed assistant editor of the ‘Musical Times’, two years later becoming its editor, a post he held until 1986. For forty years, from the mid-1960s, he also reviewed regularly for ‘The Gramophone’ and made many broadcasts for the BBC. He wrote numerous programme articles and notes to accompany recordings.

In 1970 Sadie began work on a sixth edition of ‘Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, published in 1980 as ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, in twenty volumes. His combination of encyclopaedic knowledge and experience of music's practicalities made him the obvious choice as editor of the new edition of the dictionary, his greatest achievement. Not only was it on an unprecedented scale, but it embraced topics new to musicology and was written by an international team of specialists. This work of musical lexicography generated several other reference works with which Sadie was involved, notably ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments’ (3 vols., 1984), ‘The New Grove Dictionary of American Music’ (with H. Wiley Hitchcock; 4 vols., 1986), ‘The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music’ (1988), ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Opera’ (4 vols., 1992), and ‘The New Grove Book of Operas’ (1996). Sadie was later co-editor, with John Tyrrell, of the seventh edition of the main dictionary (29 vols., 2001).

Sadie's writings and performing editions focused on the music of his two great loves: Mozart and Handel. He published a monograph on Mozart in 1956, another in 1966, an edition of Mozart's piano sonatas (1981), a revised edition of Emily Anderson's edition of Mozart's letters (1985), a book on Mozart's symphonies (1986), and a volume of essays on Mozart (1996). In spite of his final illness he completed the first of a projected two-volume study of Mozart, ‘Mozart: the Early Years, 1756–1791’ (2006). His books on Handel were published in 1962, 1966, and 1972, and in 1987 he co-edited (with Anthony Hicks) the ‘Handel Tercentenary Collection’. From 1976 he was editor of Dent's Master Musicians series. He also published books of a less specialist nature, notably ‘The Cambridge Guide to Music’ (with Alison Latham; 1985), and he edited a set of eight volumes, ‘Man and Music’ (1989–1993), which were conceived alongside a series of television programmes, presented by Bamber Gascoigne and Alan Bennett among others.

On 18 July 1978, following the death of his first wife, Sadie married Julie Anne Vertrees, née McCormack (b. 1948), an American musicologist, bass-viol player, and cellist. They had a son and a daughter. In 1993 Sadie founded the Handel House Trust, to create a museum and recital room in Handel's London house in Brook Street; his wife was also instrumental in establishing the Handel House Museum. Through this venture Sadie and his wife developed a wider interest in composers' memorials and birthplaces. They made some forty trips to Europe, gathering information for a projected guide. ‘Calling on the Composer’ was published posthumously in 2005.

In 1982 he was made a CBE. He was president of the Royal Musical Association (1989–94) and of the International Musicological Society (1992–7). He received several honorary doctorates.

Sadie and his wife moved from London to Cossington, Somerset, in 2000. There they established a series of chamber concerts. His last year was marked by a debilitating deterioration of his health; a diagnosis of motor neurone disease was made just a week before he died, of bronchopneumonia, at his home on 21 March 2005. He was survived by his wife and five children. In 2005 he was posthumously awarded the Handel prize by the city of Halle.

Source: Alison Latham, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Stanley Sadie Archive

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10095
Scope and Contents The bulk of the collection is concerned with Sadie’s output as a music critic, writer and broadcaster and includes press cuttings of performance, book and record reviews; printed programme notes; draft and printed disc notes; articles; lecture notes and broadcast scripts. Correspondence and related papers concerning his editorship of ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’ are included alongside agreements, correspondence and accounts relating to Sadie’s various appointments as a...
Dates: 1950-2013
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of correspondence containing personal or sensitive information have been closed.