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Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)


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Author Topic: Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)  (Read 2734 times)
Albion
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« on: October 24, 2020, 10:21:09 am »

Are there any admirers out there of this multi-faceted composer away from the enduring and popular association with W.S. Gilbert? There is far more to Sullivan than is commonly believed or that his somewhat maligned reputation warrants! In the last 20 years the vigorous Sir Arthur Sullivan Society based here in the UK has fought his corner magnificently and sponsored many significant and revelatory discs. The following is a list of recommended professional recordings which are all well worth investigating, but perhaps those interested might first explore the discs highlighted in bold. These will give a fair showing of Sullivan's achievement across a range of genres - symphony, overture, incidental music, oratorio, cantata and romantic (not comic) opera:

Incidental music to The Tempest (1861-62)/ Incidental music to Macbeth (1888)/ Overture Marmion (1867) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7331
Suite from The Tempest (1861-62)/ Symphony in E The Irish (1863-66)/ Overture In Memoriam (1866) - Chandos CHAN9859
Overture The Sapphire Necklace (1863-4)/ Incidental music to The Merchant of Venice (1871)/ Incidental music to Henry VIII (1877), etc. - Marco Polo 8.223461
Ballet L'Ile Enchantee (1864)/ Ballet music from Thespis (1871) - Marco Polo 8.223461
Oratorio The Prodigal Son (1869)/ Boer War Te Deum (1900) - Hyperion CDA 67423
Oratorio The Light of the World (1873) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7356
Incidental music to The Merry Wives of Windsor (1874)/ Suite from Macbeth (1888)/ Incidental music to King Arthur (1895) - Marco Polo 8.223635
Cantata The Golden Legend (1886) - Hyperion CDA 67280 (now available as download or archive CD)
Romantic Opera Ivanhoe (1891) - Chandos CHAN10578(3)
Original English Opera Haddon Hall (1892) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7372
Ballet Victoria and Merrie England (1897) - Marco Polo 8.223677
Romantic Musical Drama The Beauty Stone (1898) - Chandos CHAN 10794(2)
Songs (1855-1900) - Chandos CHAN 10935(2)

Unfortunately the professional recording (again for Dutton Epoch) of one of Sullivan's most attractive choral works, the Sacred Musical Drama The Martyr of Antioch (1880), has had to be put back to 2022 at the earliest because of the current pandemic...

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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2020, 09:44:53 am »

Are there any admirers out there of this multi-faceted composer away from the enduring and popular association with W.S. Gilbert? There is far more to Sullivan than is commonly believed or that his somewhat maligned reputation warrants! In the last 20 years the vigorous Sir Arthur Sullivan Society based here in the UK has fought his corner magnificently and sponsored many significant and revelatory discs. The following is a list of recommended professional recordings which are all well worth investigating, but perhaps those interested might first explore the discs highlighted in bold. These will give a fair showing of Sullivan's achievement across a range of genres - symphony, overture, incidental music, oratorio, cantata and romantic (not comic) opera:

Incidental music to The Tempest (1861-62)/ Incidental music to Macbeth (1888)/ Overture Marmion (1867) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7331
Suite from The Tempest (1861-62)/ Symphony in E The Irish (1863-66)/ Overture In Memoriam (1866) - Chandos CHAN9859
Overture The Sapphire Necklace (1863-4)/ Incidental music to The Merchant of Venice (1871)/ Incidental music to Henry VIII (1877), etc. - Marco Polo 8.223461
Ballet L'Ile Enchantee (1864)/ Ballet music from Thespis (1871) - Marco Polo 8.223461
Oratorio The Prodigal Son (1869)/ Boer War Te Deum (1900) - Hyperion CDA 67423
Oratorio The Light of the World (1873) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7356
Incidental music to The Merry Wives of Windsor (1874)/ Suite from Macbeth (1888)/ Incidental music to King Arthur (1895) - Marco Polo 8.223635
Cantata The Golden Legend (1886) - Hyperion CDA 67280 (now available as download or archive CD)
Romantic Opera Ivanhoe (1891) - Chandos CHAN10578(3)
Original English Opera Haddon Hall (1892) - Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7372
Ballet Victoria and Merrie England (1897) - Marco Polo 8.223677
Romantic Musical Drama The Beauty Stone (1898) - Chandos CHAN 10794(2)
Songs (1855-1900) - Chandos CHAN 10935(2)

Unfortunately the professional recording (again for Dutton Epoch) of one of Sullivan's most attractive choral works, the Sacred Musical Drama The Martyr of Antioch (1880), has had to be put back to 2022 at the earliest because of the current pandemic...

 Smiley
I agree completely, while he is sometimes dismissed as a composer of "light" music, he is also a gifted composer who can write more compelling pieces. He is also quite prolific.
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2020, 10:41:14 am »

I agree completely, while he is sometimes dismissed as a composer of "light" music, he is also a gifted composer who can write more compelling pieces. He is also quite prolific.

In British music many have fallen prey to the label of "light music composer" usually intended by the critic as a condescending and dismissive label. Arthur Sullivan, Frederic Cowen, Edward German, Samuel-Coleridge Taylor, John Foulds and Malcolm Arnold are prime examples: each of these wrote splendid music of real emotional depth and great technical accomplishment as well as works intended purely for entertainment.

Furthermore, good music is good music in any genre - the creation of "light music" requires a special kind of genius to make it live beyond its immediate production.

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« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2020, 12:08:35 pm »

I do think that the recent recordings of The Light of the World and The Beauty Stone really demonstrated that Sullivan was a gifted composer of depth who was sometimes better off for a little distance from Gilbert (much though I enjoy many of their collaborations). I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming recording of The Martyr of Antioch, which is sadly postponed due to the pandemic.

There are few days when I don't listen to Sullivan in some form. And of course at this season most of us will probably be singing "It came upon the midnight clear" somewhere.
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2020, 02:10:08 pm »

Hi, Jamie. I entirely agree with you - some of Sullivan's finest music exists outside the traditionally-accepted canon of the wonderful comic operas (not only those with libretti by Gilbert - Act II of The Chieftain is an absolute gem). Dutton's recording of The Light of the World has been a revelation, especially such numbers as In Rama was there a voice heard, proving David Eden's assertion that the vocal scores of Sullivan's works give scanty idea of the actual sound in professional performance.

The Buxton performance of The Martyr of Antioch in 2000 was not ideal and I prefer the 1983 pioneering efforts of Imperial Opera.

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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2020, 12:51:56 pm »

I still enjoy the Buxton, but thank you for this: I used to have it on cassettes, but I don't know what became of them.
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2020, 06:48:46 pm »

The acclaimed pianist and accompanist David Owen Norris has specially recorded (for Youtube) the thirty-six songs by Sullivan that will not be included in the two Chandos releases:

https://www.davidowennorris.com/unheard-songs-by-sir-arthur-sullivan/?fbclid=IwAR3RuU4XubNiR_2I2XTtXxQvGrTPNonT_YNr260fSVh2C_J2mT_MdZbsV08

"The double CD Songs & Ballads of Arthur Sullivan (Chandos CHAN10935) with Mary Bevan, Ben Johnson & Ashley Riches appeared in 2017. A further selection, with the same singers plus Kitty Whately, will appear on the Chandos label in May 2021. Those discs, coupled with the RNCM films, will present all Sullivan’s songs – a remarkable and astonishingly little-known repertoire by one of the greatest masters of vocal composition."

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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2021, 11:07:50 pm »

Regarding The Martyr of Antioch it is indeed a shame than the scheduled professional recording has had to be postponed since John Andrews is such a splendid advocate of Sullivan and British music in general. I attended the 2000 performance in Buxton (later released on CD by Symposium) where the performance and subsequent CD release (on Symposium) was woefully undercut by the sub-par chorus despite some splendid orchestral playing under Richard Balcombe and good soloists. The 1983 Imperial Opera performance is preferable:

Penelope Beavan, soprano
Debora Miles-Johnson, contralto
Stephen Chaytow, tenor
Anthony Barratt, baritone
Richard Stockton, bass

Chorus & Orchestra of Imperial Opera
Michael Withers, conductor

I still enjoy the Buxton, but thank you for this: I used to have it on cassettes, but I don't know what became of them.

I have now amalgamated the substantial extracts from the 1983 performance into a single file for convenience, so you get the whole of the wonderful opening Chorus of Sun-Worshippers from Scene 1, the funeral anthem and Margarita's Hymn from Scene 2, the Evening Song of the Maidens from Scene 3 and most of Scene 4 including the ecstatic finale. I hope that this will whet the appetite for the new complete recording to be achieved as and when circumstances permit...

 Smiley


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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2021, 10:44:38 pm »

Regarding The Golden Legend! I recently stocked up on some of Sullivan's "other" music! I like his Symphony very much! I have also enjoyed the cd's of Victoria and Merrie England (great fun! I love the way he brings in those well known tunes!) and The Merchant of Venice ( The singing took me by surprise,when I popped it in the cd player!). The biggest surprise,however,was The Golden Legend. I bought it,mainly,because,a certain,ubiquitous Seller on ebay & Amazon,was offering it for about three quid! Although,I did find the storyline appealing,from the reviews I had read! Expecting to quite like it,but find myself looking at the cd display,quite a bit,to see how much time was left,I discovered instead a lovely,tuneful work. In some ways more akin to a lovely,tuneful light opera,full of the most attractive,colourful orchestration and imaginative effects. And what a great opening! It just grabs you!!! Shocked The inspiration is also very consistent. And not too long. Unlike some I can think of!!! In fact,the time fair sped by! I can understand why it was so popular! I expected Victorian solemnity! How wrong I was! An absolutely lovely work (shamefully neglected,imho!) and one which I think allot of people would enjoy today (who enjoy the operettas too,incidentally)...............if they only had the chance!!
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2021, 12:53:51 am »

The biggest surprise,however,was The Golden Legend. I can understand why it was so popular! I expected Victorian solemnity! How wrong I was! An absolutely lovely work (shamefully neglected,imho!) and one which I think allot of people would enjoy today (who enjoy the operettas too,incidentally)...............if they only had the chance!!

Great to hear that it's been a revelation! Please try The Light of the World (on Dutton) and The Martyr of Antioch as well...

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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2021, 07:25:21 pm »

Oh no,more tempation & expense! Roll Eyes Grin With some exceptions,big works of that kind,centred around biblical events (Bach,Haydn & Handel,aside) tend to be a bit of a turn-off,for me! It was the storyline that was part of the attraction,for me,with The Golden Legend. And Elgar's Gerontius,Apostles & Kingdom just get me reaching for the off button,after a few minutes,I'm afraid. And,I have tried!! Roll Eyes Grin Although,I find the live recordings made by Elgar,quite affecting.....and I DO love Elgar. I just like the orchestral & chamber works,mainly! In fact,I listened through a huge pile of Elgar cd's,only recently! That said,I would,quite,like to give The Light of the World a hearing! My intention is to wait for one of those Dutton sales! I bought a load of Cecilia McDowall cd's from the Dutton website,recently,for next to nothing. I also recall buying Boughton's The Queen of Cornwall for half price a few years back. I may have to wait a bit though,as it's a,fairly,recent release! I also have Sullivan's Boer War Te Deum,on my list,because of it's inclusion of,Onward Christian Soldiers;and I DO like that,very rousing,tune!(And I'll get The Prodigal Son!)
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2021, 09:24:41 pm »

Elgar's Gerontius,Apostles & Kingdom just get me reaching for the off button,after a few minutes,I'm afraid. And,I have tried!! Roll Eyes Grin

I love the Elgar oratorios, especially The Apostles which has an incredibly climactic and thrilling final scene depicting the Ascension - and I have no religion so I've probably unwittingly booked meself a one-way ticket to...



 Shocked

...any other members I'm likely to encounter there?

 Cheesy

Meanwhile, The Martyr of Antioch is definitely not an oratorio, despite Wikipedia labeling it as such...

 Angry

...an oratorio uses a scriptural or otherwise explicitly biblical text, not an 1822 poem about a (probably) fictitious character from the Pagan world...

 Roll Eyes

...Sullivan designated it a "Sacred Musical Drama" and that's what it is, a colourful and beautiful choral work no more susceptible to pious religiosity than The Golden Legend.

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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2021, 10:26:41 pm »

Maybe,I will have,if I have another shot at Gerontius? I quite like the Demon's chorus!! Shocked Grin
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2021, 11:36:50 pm »

According to the booklet with my Symposium cd of early recordings of early acoustic and electrical recordings of Arthur Sullivan,The Golden Legend was "Immediately recognised as the finest British choral work of the century". "For many years it was second in popularity only to Handel's Messiah". It was also,regularly performed until the second world war.On my cd,the recordings of "The Night is calm" and "Virgin who lovest",date from 1912 and 1910 . The cd also includes an excerpt from The Martyr of Antioch,recorded in 1907 ("Come Margarita,come"). This work is described as having been a success,at it's first performance. The aria being sung at that performance,by the very same performer on this recording (Edward Lloyd) There are also three arias from Ivanhoe (1909,1922 & 1916) and The Rose of Persia (1912). Far from being the failiure ,of subsequent reputation,Ivanoe's first run,enjoyed 155 performances,and,according to this booklet,"was a critical and popular success". Thereafter," it was toured ,performed in Berlin,revived by Beecham in 1910,and broadcast in 1929".
Albion will,be well aware of the majority of these facts,of course! Grin Smiley
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2021, 12:00:20 am »

That's a great disc.

 Smiley

I also love Florence Austral in The Night is Calm and Cloudless (The Golden Legend, close of Scene 3) conducted by John Barbirolli in 1928 (HMV D 1506) -



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