This is another reissue of the 1953 recording that fortunately
goes back to the original tapes. One clearly remembers the Phase
4 series including some of the G&S canon of which The
Sorcerer was one. That series was noted for the over-the-top
sound effects that were added to the tracks. I clearly hear
in my mind the bellowing Notre Dame style bells that opened
Act I, hardly characteristic of those heard in a tranquil village
churchyard. Here, thankfully, we have a clear transcription
of the early tapes and the bonus of being able to make comparison
with the preceding HMV recording. The two versions in the same
set provide a sensible way of filling space and offering something
more than has previously been available. But I wonder who in
sales they are targeting. Ardent Savoyards are the most likely
to want to compare voices yet they are the collectors who will
have already bought copies of these performances.
Isidore Godfrey was with the D’Oyly Carte
Opera Company for a long period, from 1925 to 1966. It is interesting
here to scrutinise differences in his readings of the scores
separated over twenty years. Certainly, in the second Decca
series (1960s) differences in orchestration and emphasis of
sections of the orchestra are noticed. I have always preferred
Godfrey’s pace compared with that of Sargent’s later Glyndebourne
In comparing the 1953 Sorcerer with both
the 1933/1966 D’Oyly Carte recordings, this version is interesting
in four respects: the line-up of singers provides a strong cast;
the opening to Act II is more atmospheric (where the strings
are more prominent); it introduces Donald Adams (who joined
the company in 1951) in his first recording; and it was the
first recording to introduce dialogue (end of Act II) to aid
continuity of the plot.
Of the singers, Ann Drummond Grant and Muriel
Harding are on good form while the fresh-sounding Neville Griffiths
in the role of Alexis, his first recording with the company,
is a distinct improvement on the ageing Derek Oldham who usually
took all tenor parts at this time. Hearing him as a youthful
Alexis in the 1933 recording makes an interesting comparison
for those who have grown up knowing only the mature Oldham.
Darrell Fancourt, a respected D’Oyly Carte star, had retired
the year prior to this recording and although Fisher Morgan
makes a good attempt I feel his emotions are empty.
The 1933 recording, despite its characteristic,
boxy sound of the period, has amazing clarity of diction and
George Baker (who never appeared on-stage with the D’Oyly Carte)
sings well and plays the part with better characterisation than
Peter Pratt in the later recording. The pace of this recording
The 1933 recording has a good treble and
bass response but the gain on the mid frequencies is lacking
and might have been compensated for. There is no evident hiss
The 1953 recording transfer is excellent.
Still owning the LPs, LK4070/1, I was interested to compare
the Naxos CD equalisation with the sound from the turntable.
The result was that one cannot tell any difference in tonal
balance, but LP Side 4 suffers from a lathe/pressing background
‘roaring’ noise whereas the CD version is quite silent —so congratulations
to the expert Naxos engineer (uncredited) who accomplished this
excellent transfer. The booklet (in English only) gives a track
running synopsis and potted biography for each of the soloists.
A short note is given on the place of this opera in the G&S
canon but nothing is said about the composer or writer.