Sullivan: Gilbert and Sullivan Overtures

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Sullivan
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Gilbert and Sullivan Overtures
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 434 916-2 DDD
It should be ‘Sullivan Overtures’, since both these venture outside the Gilbert canon. Both have the Overturn di Ballo (as the composer originally spelt it, not ‘Overture di Ballo’), which is purely a concert work, perhaps Sullivan’s very best composition for orchestra; Marriner also gives the Macbeth overture, commissioned for Henry Irving’s production of the play. Unhappily his Ballo is brusque and un-lilting, and the Macbethless convincingly proportioned than on David Lloyd-Jones’s Victorian Concert Overtures (Hyperion CDA 66515). So, against my expectations, I enjoyed Marriner best in his seven Gilbertian overtures — die song-melodies beautifully ‘felt’ in instrumental colour, conveyed in admirable sound. They include The Gondoliers with the conventional cachucha ending, and Patience. There would have been room for one more!

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The other disc, more generously filled, is a decent, listenable bunch, mainly of reissues. The former New Sadler’s Wells Opera Company provides the overture to HMS Pinafore and both forms of the Ruddigoreavemite. (the composer’s and the 1920s version); the rest is D’Oyly Carte’s, including the Ballo (originally a filler on its Gondoliers recording), in which John Pryce-Jones questionably reinstates a sizable cut made by the composer. The music is straightforwardly delivered, but without any interpretative distinction to show up Sullivan’s art. Melodies are well articulated but accompaniments sometimes fuzzy – at the opening of The Yeomen of the Guard, the violins’ vigorous counterpoint to the brass proclamation is barely audible. Arthur Jacobs