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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

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Complete Mozart Edition
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Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

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Available again

alternatively
Crotchet

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
CD 1 [57:38]        
HMS Pinafore (1878) [77:49]
Dick Deadeye - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Captain Corcoran - John Cameron (Baritone)
Josephine - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
The Rt Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB - George Baker (Baritone)
Ralph Rackstraw - Richard Lewis (Tenor)
Little Buttercup - Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Hebe - Marjorie Thomas (Contralto)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. Studio 1, EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 1958
CD 2 [53:21]
Trial by Jury (1875) [33:19]
The Learned Judge - George Baker (Baritone)
The Defendant - Richard Lewis (Tenor)
The Plaintiff - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Counsel for the Plaintiff - John Cameron (Baritone)
Foreman of the Jury - Bernard Turgeon (Baritone)
Usher - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1960
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134332  [57:38 + 53:21]

alternatively
Crotchet

 

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Mikado (1885)
CD 1 [54:25] CD 2 [36:22]
The Mikado - Owen Brannigan (Bass),
Nanki-Poo - Richard Lewis (Tenor)
Pooh-Bah - Ian Wallace (Bass)
Ko-Ko - Geraint Evans (Baritone)
Beep-BoJeanette Sinclair (Soprano)
Pitti-Sing - Marjorie Thomas (Contralto)
Katisha - Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Pish-Tush - John Cameron (Baritone)
Yum-Yum - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1956
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134442 [54:25 + 36:22]
 

alternatively
Crotchet

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Pirates of Penzance (1879) [88:46]
CD 1 [47:47] CD 2 [64:44]
Ruth - Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Edith - Heather Harper (Soprano)
Major-General Stanley - George Baker (Baritone)
Samuel - John Cameron (Baritone)
The Pirate King - James Milligan (Bass Baritone)
Sergeant of Police - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Mabel - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Frederic - Richard Lewis (Tenor)
Kate - Marjorie Thomas (Contralto)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1959-60
The Sorcerer overture (1877/1884) [5:40]
Cox and Box overture (1866) [2:38]
Princess Ida overture (1884) [4:09]
Overture in C (In memoriam) (1866)[11:17]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Vivian Dunn
rec. Great Hall, University of Birmingham, May 1971
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134542 [47:47 + 64:44]

alternatively
Crotchet

 

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Ruddigore (1887) [83:34]
Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd - George Baker (Baritone)
Sir Despard Murgatroyd - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Richard Dauntless - Richard Lewis (Tenor)
Old Adam Goodheart - Harold Blackburn (Bass)
Rose Maybud - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Mad Margaret - Pamela Bowden (Contralto)
Dame Hannah - Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Sir Roderic Murgatroyd - Joseph Rouleau (Bass)
Zorah - Elizabeth Harwood (Soprano)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1962
The Merchant  of Venice Suite (1871) [14:15]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Vivian Dunn
rec. Great Hall, University of Birmingham, May 1971
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134592 [55:43 + 41:15]

alternatively
Crotchet

 

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Yeomen of the Guard (1888)
Sergeant Fairfax - John Cameron (Baritone)
Colonel Fairfax - Richard Lewis (Tenor),
Sir Richard Cholmondeley - Denis Dowling (Baritone)
Wilfred Shadbolt - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Jack Point - Geraint Evans (Baritone)
Leonard Meryll - Alexander Young (Tenor),
Second Yeoman - John Carol Case (Baritone)
Elsie Maynard - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Phoebe Meryll - Marjorie Thomas (Contralto)
Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Kate - Doreen Hume (Soprano)
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1957
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134652 [55:49 + 37:39]

alternatively
Crotchet

 

Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Iolanthe (1882)
Strephon - John Cameron (Baritone)
Queen of the Fairies Monica Sinclair (Contralto)
Celia - April Cantelo (Soprano)
Phyllis - Elsie Morison (Soprano)
Leila - Heather Harper (Soprano)
Iolanthe - Marjorie Thomas (Contralto)
The Lord Chancellor -George Baker (Baritone)
Earl Tolloller - Alexander Young (Tenor)
Earl of Mountararat - Ian Wallace (Bass)
Private Willis - Owen Brannigan (Bass)
Pro Arte Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Malcolm Sargent
rec. EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, 1958
Overture di Ballo (1870) [9:54]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2134392 [62:47 + 43:05]
Experience Classicsonline


Reissued once again – have they ever really been away? – these G&S recordings have long since left behind the appellation of ‘classics’ and drifted off to that empyrean region in which position they remain, immovable, immortal.

Which is not to say, that they are all imperishable masterpiece performances or without flaws. And you’ll note that not all the canon is included in this review though all the Sargent-led recordings have been duly re-issued. There were numerous predecessors on disc and the contemporaneous Isidore Godfrey productions will hold equal interest to collectors, not to mention the many more recent recordings which we can here, I think, omit.

The Pirates of Penzance recording is one of the very best Sargent inscriptions. It’s energetic and witty, and has a sure sense of style. It must also be borne in mind that the dialogue is omitted from this and all these performances. Sargent points When Frederic was a little lad strongly, which Monica Sinclair despatches with oratorio fervour. James Milligan is in fine voice for Oh, better far and the excellently judged duet, Oh, false one, is an example of the care and discrimination soloists, conductor and engineers extended to the concerted numbers. Here and elsewhere they are invariably good. Crowd scenes have been energetically and plausibly done and the set piece I am the very model of a modern Major-General is taken quite sedately. There are clever pauses and fine rubati from the star of the show, George Baker. The Glyndebourne Festival Chorus sings lustily  - they pack quite a punch in Pray observe the magnanimity as indeed they do in With cat-like tread. The Sargent repertory company of singers included such elegant and personable artists as John Cameron and Richard Lewis, as well as Owen Brannigan – no one like him around today – and a star line up of women; Elsie Morison, Heather Harper, Marjorie Thomas and Monica Sinclair. These are the kind of voices that could belt out Handel and Elgar oratorios as well as turn to G & S.  A further inducement in this volume is the presence of three overtures – The Sorcerer, Cox and Box, and Princess Ida and the Overture in C (In Memoriam) – played by the City of Birmingham Symphony under Vivian Dunn; recordings made just over a decade after the Sargent one.

H.M.S. Pinafore shows again the exceptionally high vocal standards set and maintained in the Sargent HMV productions. This applies equally to the choral numbers and to the playing of the Pro Arte orchestra; that it doesn’t sound quite as lithe as some bands is really down to the generally genial tempi set by the conductor. Richard Lewis, George Baker and Owen Brannigan star for the men whilst Monica Sinclair turns in a star show for the women. Note how well the fine Handelian Lewis deals with the cod-Handel recitative of A maiden fair to see – real deadpan charm. Baker’s dynamics and personable command shine from every note of I am the monarch of the sea and by virtue of acutely graded dynamics and excellent ensemble the whole thing moves with great wit and entrenched musical values. Brannigan’s role is a small one but he fills its boots to overflowing – as did Donald Adams in a contemporaneous set for the D’Oyly Carte company under Godfrey on Decca. I’ve always found some of the scoring for Trial by Jury – with which H.M.S. Pinafore is coupled – to be Anglo-Dvořákian. If you doubt me give a listen to the bustle of the opening scene Hark, the hour of ten is sounding and though it’s an early work of course dating from 1875 The Bartered Bride had been written a decade or so earlier. Brannigan scene steals once again, not least in his pomposo interjections, Baker is excellent though his voice is not as conventionally good as his colleagues’; the recording quality is first class too. The Handelian chorus All hail great judge doubtless raised a knowing smirk from those in the know – most of the audience one would have assumed.  Richard Lewis once again shows his vocal and stylistic flexibility in his role as the Defendant. And there’s ardour from Elsie Morison as Angelina especially in her aria I love him. Once again this is a first class production, though it needs to be acknowledged that it’s from the opera-oratorio side of things rather than the theatrical grease paint stage.

Geoffrey Toye – remember his Delius recordings? -orchestrated the overture to Ruddigore. This recording really has a great deal going for it, preferable to the D’Oyly Carte with John Reed, Thomas Round and their confreres. If you don’t mind a lack of dialogue again, but a surfeit of superb characterisation and singing, then this Sargent may yet be the set for you, despite its 1962 provenance. The chorus gives their all for the choral conductor supreme. Baker, his voice past its best and certainly past its bloom, still retains every ounce of its canniness and control. His tongue twisting aria My eyes are fully open goes with invincible swing though once again the tempo is tailored for the performance. Sargent catches the élan and charm of the score, etching such things as the hornpipe – in I shipp’d, d’ye see, in a Revenue sloop – with practised command, not pushing the tempi. There’s also some good ‘business’ in this recording. Sometimes the crowd scenes in these Sargent productions left a little of the gusto on the recording room floor but not here. Go for Oh, why am I moody and sad? for exhibit number one. For another try the spatial chorus separation in Painted emblems, which works exceptionally well. The Merchant of Venice suite is the bonus – its breezy Bourée is always a tonic.

Expansive tempi and a warm hued lyricism also mark out The Yeomen of the Guard. Sargent’s symphonic assurance can also be gauged by the immensely powerful weight with which he imbues the opening of When our gallant Norman foes – he makes it a real set piece quasi-symphonic statement. Richard Lewis is typically elegant and fluid of voice as Fairfax and the chorus is once more a real presence in the performance. The ensembles and duets are very much up to the accepted standard. It’s clear that Sargent sees the work quite richly and grandly so that it doesn’t move as quickly on its pins as other, perhaps more traditional performances. If you prefer the weightier way then there is no finer way to experience it than here. That said the stalwarts make their presence felt as well. Monica Sinclair unleashes her flaring chest voice in Night has spread her pall. Few more scary Dame Carruthers exist than the Dido-witch Sinclair. Kudos too for the naturally balanced ensembles.

Operatic fig reappears in Iolanthe. Sinclair – I know that not everyone will appreciate the timbre of her voice – is an authoritative Queen of the Fairies whilst John Cameron is warmly burnished as Strephon. The chorus has clearly been instructed to pile on the old age pensioners act as the Peers and their wildly obtrusive vibratos certainly do add a cash-for-questions element to their role. Meanwhile we have the laudable, incontestable George Baker riding the crest of a Sullivan fugue in The Law is the true embodiment. He shows just how things should be done – and so indeed does Sargent – in When I went to the Bar, which once again, as anticipated, is taken steadily.  Replacing Richard Lewis we have Alexander Young who is an eminently fine replacement as his singing of Of all the young ladies demonstrates. Brannigan is Private Willis and he unleashes a torrent of nobility in his Act II aria When all night long a chap remains. Ian Wallace thumps the tub in his florid When Britain really ruled the waves. There are some glamorous, outsize performances in this set. Once again ensembles are beyond reproach.  The Overture di Ballo is a BBC/Sargent performance.

The Mikado is another good performance though here one might find that the comic elements are a little subdued within the framework of big band operatic style. Certainly the old regulars are here – you really couldn’t cast it better using voices of this type – and the ensemble and duet work, as well as the choral singing and the orchestral playing is first class. Richard Lewis’s innate lyricism is the forte in Were you not to Ko-Ko plight and Monica Sinclair once again does her ‘Wild Women and Witches’ act as Katisha – Your revels cease duly froze the blood in these veins. Elsie Morison does well by The Sun whose rays are all ablaze and Geraint Evans is mellifluous though not especially witty in On a tree by a river. Ian Wallace is on especially good form as Pooh-Bah. You won’t go too far astray with this particular set, certainly not individual and collective vocal strengths, but you will find more incisive comedy elsewhere.

All these performance are to be found in the standard two disc sets. No libretti – but you surely won’t need one.

Jonathan Woolf







 


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