> The Romantic Gilbert and Sullivan [MC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

W.S. GILBERT (1836-1911) and Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
‘The Romantic Gilbert and Sullivan’: ‘Favourite Arias and Duets’
  • Take a pair of sparkling eyes (The Gondoliers) for tenor
  • The sun whose rays are all ablaze (The Mikado) for soprano
  • Stay Frederick, stay (Pirates of Penzance) for duet
  • The nightingale sighed (HMS Pinafore) for tenor
  • Prithee pretty maiden (Patience) for duet
  • Were you not to Koko plighted (The Mikado) for tenor
  • A wand’ring minstrel (The Mikado) for tenor
  • Kind sir, you cannot have the heart our lives to part (The Gondoliers) for soprano
  • The battle’s roar is over, O my love (Ruddigore) for duet
  • Is life a boon? (Yeoman of the Guard) for tenor
  • A simple sailor, lowly born (HMS Pinafore) for soprano
  • Refrain audacious tar (HMS Pinafore) for duet

  • ‘The other Sullivan’
  • Once again
  • I will arise (from The Prodigal Son)
  • The Long Day Closes

  • Tracks 1-12
    James Griffett: tenor, Christina Clarke: soprano
    The Salon Orchestra/Colin Mawby
    Tracks 13-14 James Griffett: tenor, Simon Lindley: piano
    Track 15 Pro Cantione Antiqua/Mark Brown
    FOXGLOVE AUDIO 5JS2801027722D15 80 [52:05]


    Foxglove Audio of Rawden, Leeds have provided a most interesting compilation comprising a varied selection of mainly Gilbert and Sullivan tenor and soprano arias and duets from seven of their Savoy Operettas. In addition, there are included three songs from Sullivan’s solo pen, two of which are for tenor and piano and the final track played by the vocal ensemble Pro Cantione Antiqua.

    I first came across the tenor James Griffett as a member of the early music ensemble ‘Pro Cantione Antiqua’ and the soloist in a fine collection of songs and ballads by Stanford on Campion Records. Griffett with his light tenor voice is enthusiastic and reliable and is admirably suited to this repertoire. His vocal talents and characterisation can be heard to his best advantage in the wonderful arias ‘A wand’ring minstrel’ and ‘Take a pair of sparkling eyes’.

    Soprano Christina Clarke does a more than average job here and proves to be extremely well matched with Griffett. Occasionally her diction is poor, especially for example in the forte section of the duet ‘Stay Frederick, stay’ 0:26-0:28 where her words are barely audible without the aid of a libretto. It is however in the pianissimo passages that the soprano is really at her best. In the same duet ‘Stay Frederick, stay’ 1:39-2:11 is a good example of her voice heard at her most beautiful.

    It is difficult for me not to compare these arias and duets with Malcolm Sargent’s classic evergreen recordings of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas recently reissued in a 16 disc boxed set on EMI CZS5 744682. The EMI tenor soloist on these tracks is the impeccable Richard Lewis. His voice is deeper and richer than Griffett’s and his strength and subtle control is without question. The soprano lead soloist on the EMI recording is Elsie Morison whose performances are pretty much unanimously regarded as top class, with a particularly secure technique. However, I do find her vibrato uncomfortable at times, for example in ‘The sun whose rays are all ablaze’.

    The Pro Arte Orchestra on the EMI Sargent recordings is as good as can be expected from one of the premier ensembles of the day and by comparison The Salon Orchestra are just not in the same league. The violins sound like a school orchestra at times. Just listen to Track 2 2:00-2:04 which painfully illustrates their playing ability. Fortunately, in the arias and duets, the orchestra is rarely heard without the soloists and therefore do not impact too much on the proceedings.

    We all have our particular favourites from the Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas and it is impossible for everyone’s choices to be accommodated. However, for a single disc of arias and duets this Foxglove Audio compilation is as fine as I can imagine. It would have been good however to have the librettos to the arias and duets, I have the complete texts but many other listeners may not be so fortunate.

    On the whole, the soloists Griffett and Clarke are in fine voice individually and make a most suitable pairing in the duets. I particularly enjoyed the pristine yet stylish performance of tenor James Griffett. One barely notices the problems with the orchestral accompaniment, making this a most recommendable release which will disappoint few listeners.
    Michael Cookson


    Foxglove Audio, 10 Springwood Road, Rawdon, Leeds LS19 6BH
    Tel: 0113 250 7282 E-mail Foxglove

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