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Sullivan: Symphony in E major 'Irish'; Overture In Memoriam; Suite from 'The Tempest'
Arthur Sullivan, Richard Hickox, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Sullivan: Symphony in E major 'Irish'; Overture In Memoriam; Suite from 'The Tempest'
Genre: Classical


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Orchestral music from Sullivan's pre-Gilbert years.
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 07/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts, listening to the first minute of the first track will have no trouble identifying the composer. This is clearly music by the English composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), who had a gift for melody and whose music is always "on its best Sunday church attendance behaviour". A further minute's listening will suggest the music of Mendelssohn. The latter composer's incidental music to Shakespeare's "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" inspired the eighteen year old Sullivan to write incidental music for another Shakespeare play, "The Tempest", the second item heard on this top quality, 77 minute CD. The so-called "Irish" Symphony dates from Sullivan's early 20s. It comprises the major item here. Its significance is stressed in the excellent notes provided by Andrew Lamb, who points out that at the time Sullivan composed his symphony Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Dvorak had barely begun their symphonic careers. All these works pre-date Sullivan's career as a collaborator with W S Gilbert, a career which no doubt paid the bills better than these works did, but which prompts regrets that Sullivan never achieved the promise these early orchestral works held. Meanwhile, those who add this CD to their trolley need have no regrets. It supersedes all other recordings of these works I have heard."
A worthwhile encounter, but nothing more
G.D. | Norway | 12/06/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Arthur Sullivan always wanted to be recognized as a serious composer, yet will, of course, forever be thought of as half of the Gilbert and Sullivan duo. There have been several recordings of his serious works the last couple of years, however, and can they remedy this one-sided view of him? The answer, and I think it is a pretty clear one, is no; there are certainly good things to be found on this disc, for instance, but the undeniable fact is that it was, indeed, in the partnership with Gilbert that Sullivan excelled. The serious music is, while again not in any way bad music, not really ever above the level of hundreds of other, forgotten 19th century composers in terms of quality.

It is not that his music lack melody; the Irish symphony is brimful of them - the problem is rather that none of them are particularly memorable. The first movement, for instance, opens atmospherically but continues on in a mostly Mendelssohnian but anonymous vein with little interesting to say. The Andante espressivo is probably the best movement and the third movement certainly charming - the fourth again more anodyne than the tone set for it at the outset suggests. Overall, then, it is an attractive and, I guess, finely wrought work, but not a particularly memorable one.

The selections from the Tempest Suite are still a letdown by comparison. A very early work, it certainly displays skill and talent, but as a listening experience it isn't particularly rewarding. The In Memoriam overture is better, but again the promise of the atmospheric opening is never delivered and the work as a whole is charming but somewhat meandering and inconsequential. The somewhat mixed impression of this disc is by no means due to the performances, however, which are very good, and Chandos rewards them with excellent sound quality. Still, while certainly a worthwhile encounter, I see no particular reason (apart from a historical interest in the development of the composer) to go out of one's way to acquire this one."