Sullivan: Pineapple Poll (arr. Mackerras); Symphony in E (Irish)

COMPOSERS: Sullivan
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Sullivan
WORKS: Pineapple Poll (arr. Mackerras); Symphony in E (Irish)
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570351
Like the works from which it borrows its material, Charles Mackerras’s ballet Pineapple Poll,/i? (1951) has become a light-music classic. Deservedly so, because its ingenious and often uproarious treatments of ‘eminently danceable tunes’ (as Mackerras calls them) from the Savoy Operas matches the brilliance of the originals, and in orchestral terms expands on it. Sullivan worked wonders with his pit band of (regularly) 27 players, but with a full orchestra at his disposal Mackerras can go one step more lavish. He also points up the French heritage – Auber and Offenbach especially – in Sullivan’s scores and even manages the odd contrapuntal trick the composer didn’t get around to.

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David Lloyd-Jones gives the whole thing tremendous swing and rhythmic bite, with the Liverpool players on their top form, and the result is a delight. Mackerras’s LPO recording has a worthwhile coupling in the form of his other ballet score, The Lady and the Fool (arranged from Verdi), but the sound is better here.

Naxos gives us instead Sullivan’s attractive and often engaging Irish Symphony, written when he was just 21. Sullivan was lured away from the concert hall by the financial temptations of operetta. If his early symphony is no masterpiece it’s a creditable achievement, with a charmer of a scherzo. The strongest competition is from Hickox on Chandos, but for my money Lloyd-Jones just pips his rival to the post with his steady application of drama and cogency to Sullivan’s post-Mendelssohnian enterprise.

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George Hall