One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Plain text for phones
and Printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



Support us financially by purchasing this disc through MusicWeb
for £21 postage paid World-wide.

Peggy GLANVILLE-HICKS (1912–1990)
Sappho - Opera in Three Acts to libretto from the play by Lawrence Durrell and Bliss Carman’s 1907 100 Sappho Lyrics (1963) [128:07]
Deborah Polaski (soprano) - Sappho
Martin Homrich (tenor) - Phaon
Scott MacAllister (tenor) - Pittakos
Roman Trekel (baritone) - Diomedes
Wolfgang Koch (bass-baritone) - Minos
Sir John Tomlinson (bass) - Kreon
Jacquelyn Wagner (soprano) - Chloe/Priestess
Bettina Jensen (soprano) - Joy
Maria Markina (mezzo) - Doris
Laurence Meikle (baritone) - Alexandrian
Coro Gulbenkian
Orquestra Gulbenkian/Jennifer Condon
rec. Grande Auditório, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 10-20 July 2012
first recording
full English text included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0154-55 [61:21 + 66:48]

Experience Classicsonline

Whatever your views on the music or the performance, that this recording exists at all is an extraordinary story, and due congratulations must be offered to the hard work and dedication of all involved, in particular of Jennifer Condon. Her “normal” job is as a prompter at the Hamburg Opera, but she has been responsible for editing this previously unpublished work, preparing it for performance, persuading a large and distinguished cast to take part, in some cases without any remuneration, as well as conducting the performance. This shows a commitment to the work that may seem eccentric to the cynical but heroic to others who have laboured in vain on behalf of other similarly neglected works.
Peggy Glanville-Hicks was an Australian composer whose teachers included Vaughan Williams, Egon Wellesz and Nadia Boulanger, who was married for a time to Stanley Bate, another neglected composer, and who spent twenty years in New York before moving to Greece and finally back to Australia. Her other works include the opera The Transposed Heads, commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra and recorded by them in the 1950s and in 1984 by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. I have listened many times to both recordings with increasing pleasure so that I have been very eager to hear the present discs.
Sappho is a setting of an adaptation by the composer of a verse play by Lawrence Durrell. It tells of the Lesbian (but not lesbian) poet Sappho in her latter years when she was married to a wealthy local merchant, Kreon. The various scenes show her with the twin brothers, Pittakos and Phaon, with her tutor, Minos, and with Diomedes, a drunken poet. Towards the end she is exiled to Corinth on a false charge of incest. Her final monologue, the only part of the opera to have been publicly performed, is the clear climax of the opera, with Sappho accepting the impermanence of personal relationships as well as of her own life. It mirrors similar scenes at the end of operas by Strauss and Janácek, albeit that it is very different in its musical style. That style derives to a great degree from the composer’s attempt to reduce the importance of harmony in music, and to throw the emphasis instead on texture and tone, melody and heterophony. The result may seem a little bland at first but the listener soon adjusts to the composer’s very individual style.
A quick glance at the cast list shows several distinguished Wagnerian singers. Very surprisingly that appears to have been a necessity due to the weight of some of the orchestration. The conductor’s note indicates that she believes that with adjustment to dynamics and some of the orchestration it could be performed on a smaller scale, and I have to say that this would be welcome. In fact the ideal might be to retain the Wagner-sized voices but allow them to sing at somewhat less than full power. That would permit a more nuanced approach to performance and a more natural delivery of the, admittedly somewhat flowery, text. I am full of admiration for the cast here, who have taken on a major new work with obvious enthusiasm, but it has to be admitted that for much of the time there is a lack of any attempt at light or shade in their singing. The many singers for whom English is not their first language cope well but it cannot be said that the result sounds idiomatic. Admittedly the results in the case of the English-speaking artists are not all that much better, and although I attempted to follow what was being sung without it after a while I found myself wholly dependent on the printed libretto to understand what was being said or even who was saying it.
Sappho is by no means as immediately attractive as is The Transposed Heads, partly due to an apparent preponderance of slow or slowish music, but enough is revealed through this very welcome issue to suggest that subject to the preparation of a performance edition that would make it kinder to singers and to a greater familiarity with the work it would certainly merit stage performance. In the meantime we should once again thank Jennifer Condon for her untiring efforts to make it possible to hear the work and all the singers and players who helped her in this. Congratulations also to Toccata Classics whose presentation of the issue, with essays on the work, the edition, Durrell and Sappho, together with the full libretto, does all that could be done to help the listener and encourage understanding of this important discovery.
John Sheppard

Support us financially by purchasing this disc through MusicWeb
for £21 postage paid World-wide.



































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.