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Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Overtures: di Ballo; HMS Pinafore; The Yeoman of the Guard; Iolanthe; The Mikado; The Pirates of Penzance; Macbeth; The Gondoliers; and Patience
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
no recording dates - an original compilation date is given as 1992 from the Philips label

Sullivan without Gilbert: Sullivan comic and serious. This compilation of overtures from seven of the comic operas and two, more serious, concert works is one of those collections that will sell itself according to the list of contents. As with all the albums in the Decca British Music Collection, this one is a reissue, this time of an recording presumably issued on the Philips label in 1992 - I say presumably because the rather cursory notes in this 8-page booklet give no recording details other than – ‘© 1992 Philips Classics Productions’.

Marriner delivers engaging performances, finely shaded and nicely detailed. The comic overtures parade all their familiar melodies all combining rumbustious and plaintively romantic elements and Sullivan’s delicious irony, plus: the irresistible exuberance of The Gondoliers, the rollicking Jack Tar music for HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, sombreness and pomp for the more serious The Yeoman of the Guard, Mendelsohnnian-like gossamer fairy music for Iolanthe, the mock-exotic and gorgeous absurdities of The Mikado and the rustic gaiety of Patience.

Of the concert overtures, Sullivan’s Macbeth Overture (1888) probes into more shadowy corners but even here lightness persists in trying to break through; for instance, the witches dance is anything but threatening, rather one might imagine Mendelssohn’s fairies than evil old crones. Sullivan’s Overture di Ballo, at 11˝ minutes or so, the longest item in the programme, was composed for the Birmingham Triennial Festival of 1870. Formal in design, it comprises a stately polonaise, central waltz and a concluding gallop. Marriner captures its glamour and rhythmic verve, and the phrasing of the Academy strings is particularly beautiful

Engaging performances of an attractive compilation of Sullivan overtures – comic and serious.

Ian Lace

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