ALBUM TITLE: Sullivan
WORKS: Cox and Box; Trial by Jury
PERFORMER: Rebecca Evans, Matthew Brook, James Gilchrist, Neal Davies, Donald Maxwell; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10321
Sullivan’s first operetta sets a text by the humorist FC Burnand based on J Maddison Morton’s once famous farce, whose title – Box and Cox – it transposes. The ingenious score reveals the influences of Donizetti and Auber as well as Offenbach, and is the only one of the composer’s comedies written without Gilbert to survive in the repertoire. It has regularly been played, however, in a version modified by later hands, but this recording presents it in a new edition going back to Sullivan’s autograph. It’s worth having just on that account – the nimble instrumental writing is a joy. But the performance is also stylish, with three impeccable principals in the shapes of James Gilchrist (Box), Neal Davies (Cox) and Donald Maxwell (Sergeant Bouncer), who also delivers his own adept narration in place of dialogue.
They all turn up again in Trial by Jury, this time aided by the spry and knowing Plaintiff of Rebecca Evans and Matthew Brook’s Counsel, who overdoes the ‘posh’ accent. But Maxwell’s Judge, Gilchrist’s Defendant and Davies’s Usher are all very much present and correct. So is Richard Hickox’s conducting, which lacks only the last ounce of joie de vivre to make these perfect performances. But they’re highly enjoyable and served up in fresh and open sound. George Hall