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Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Pineapple Poll
Ballet Suite (arr. Sir Charles Mackerras, 1951) [29:53]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) The Lady and the Fool Ballet Suite (arr. Mackerras, 1954) [29:58]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Southwark, March 1977

Sullivan died in 1900, and his music therefore became free of copyright restrictions in 1950. This meant that the young Charles Mackerras could suggest to the choreographer John Cranko that it be used for a ballet whose scenario should be based on one of W.S. Gilbert’s “Bab Ballads”. Its success was justified, and the score has remained a great favourite ever since. Mackerras himself has recorded at least three complete versions - with the Sadlers Wells, Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras - which have come and gone regularly in the catalogue. In addition other recordings are available of various suites, including arrangements for wind and brass bands, and, even less likely, for pianola (by Rex Lawson). The present recording was part of series sponsored by Messrs W.D. & H.O. Wills and comprises about two-thirds of the ballet, omitting four of the twelve sections: Poll and Jasper’s solos in Scenes 1 and 2 respectively, Poll’s solo in Scene 3, and the Entry of Belaye with Blanche as his bride. Whilst for the enthusiast these cuts are likely to be unforgivable, the music which is left may be too much for the general listener, so that this version falls firmly between two stools. This is a great pity as the performance and recording are both very satisfactory, with Mackerras showing no signs of routine or boredom with his lively and inventive arrangements.

The Lady and the Fool followed in 1954, with the same choreographer and arranger but this time with music selected from Verdi’s early operas which at that time were rarely heard outside Italy. However, much as I love both those operas and admire the ingenuity of the arrangements, I find the result far less memorable or interesting. This is largely due to the change of character necessarily imposed on the music extracted. Whereas with Sullivan Mackerras is all the time cunningly to be bringing out the implications of what is there already, with Verdi he seems to be turning it into a wholly different kind of work. I accept, however, that others may not share this view, and certainly the results are always worth hearing, especially when performed with such panache and sensitivity. Again, as with Pineapple Poll, there are extensive cuts, and, again, Mackerras has recorded the whole score - with the Philharmonia, last available on Testament. It is a pity that nothing has been done to fill in the gaps in either ballet or to provide better value by adding other pieces. Nonetheless, given the quality of the performances and recording, and the full and helpful notes, this remains a worthwhile purchase – but don’t be surprised if having listened to it you want to go out and buy a complete version of the ballets.

John Sheppard


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