Arthur Sullivan Incidental Music – Good to be back in print

Good to see this back in print. Naxos first released this album on their Marco Polo label in 1992. It features some of Arthur Sullivan’s other theatrical music.

This Irish composer will forever be part of Gilbert and Sullivan. But even in his lifetime, he was well-known for his work outside the “Savoy Operas.”

The Masquerade from The Merchant of Venice represents a key plot point. It plays while Jessica and Lorenzo elope from the ball. Sullivan deftly sets the mood with Italianate melodies and dances.

For an 1877 revival of Henry VII. This play was a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. The final act celebrates the birth of Elizabeth I.

Sullivan’s music for the act is suitably royal, with trumpet flourishes and fanfares. It even includes a ballad thought to have been written by Henry VIII. Sullivan smoothed out the Renaissance harmonies though, giving the tune a Victorian setting.

The Sapphire Necklace was an unperformed opera. Though most of the score is lost, the overture and two vocal numbers were published. It’s an exciting work that perhaps promised far more than the libretto could deliver.

Rounding out the program is a concert overture Sullivan wrote for his father. Some of the sections are suitably somber. But Sullivan also includes some celebratory passages commemorating his father’s love of music.

The recording and performances have held up well. The overall sound isn’t as crisp as one might expect from a 2022 recording. But there’s still plenty of detail, and the stereo sound field is suitably spacious.

Sullivan had strong theatrical instincts. Even without Mr. Gilbert. That’s my takeaway from this recording.

Arthur Sullivan: Incidental Music
The Merchant of Venice; Henry VIII; The Saffire Necklace; Overture in C
Emmanual Lawler, tenor
RTE Concert Orchestra; Andrew Penny, conductor
Naxos 8.555181

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