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Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)

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Author Topic: Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)  (Read 2850 times)
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)

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« Reply #210 on: November 23, 2021, 10:34:28 am »

Sullivan wrote two ceremonial odes which deserve to be better known, namely Ode on the opening of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition (1886) and Ode for the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the Imperial Institute (1887). Neither title is likely to evoke much enthusiam in the prospective listener but there is actually some rather fine music in these short choral pieces.

Admittedly, neither sets a brilliant text as supplied by Lord Tennyson and Lewis Morris respectively. The first is the shorter of the two and includes such gems as

Men, that in a narrower day -
Unprophetic rulers they -
Drove from out her mother's nest
That young eagle of the West
[i.e. America]
To forage for herself alone!
Britons, hold your own!

but the inclusion of a soprano solo adds welcome interest.

The second ode is much more expansive and multi-sectioned. Unfortunately, the full score was destroyed in the 1964 Chappell fire but it has been finely reorchestrated by Roger Harris. Again the text is as tub-thumping as you'd expect but Sullivan handles it well and provides a rousing conclusion.

Sullivan conducted his Ode whilst Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone on 4th July 1887 -

The enormous Imperial Institute was completed in 1893 (for the opening of which Sullivan supplied his splendid Imperial March).

Despite vigorous protests (the Institute had survived the Blitz unscathed) it was demolished between 1956 and 1965, only one of many fine Victorian buildings to fall prey to post-war butchery, leaving only the bell tower (on the right hand side of the photograph). The site was redeveloped as Imperial College, decidedly not an architectural improvement -

Fortunately both odes were recorded in 1999 by Symposium (Symposium 1247) on a disc which also includes Kenilworth (1864) and the Boer War Te Deum (1900), Sullivan's final completed work. It's well worth seeking out, although the performances are sluggish and both pieces would benefit from more vigorous tempi.

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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)

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