One of the most grown-up review sites around


2019
51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

TROUBADISC

colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin


Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti


Bax Piano Music


Guillaume LEKEU


Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website



Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases


Superior performance


Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons
Notable


Verdi Requiem Thielemann


Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital


Arnold Bax
Be converted


this terrific disc


John Buckley
one of my major discoveries


François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3

........................................

Bryden Thomson


Symphonies


Vaughan Williams Concertos


RVW Orchestral

 

 

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
The Light of the World (1873)
Natalya Romaniw (soprano) – Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Eleanor Dennis (soprano) – Mary Magdalene/ Martha
Kitty Whately (contralto) – An Angel
Robert Murray (tenor) – A Disciple/Nicodemus
Ben McAteer (baritone) – Jesus
Neal Davies (bass) – A Ruler/A Pharisee/A Shepherd
BBC Concert Orchestra / John Andrews
Kinder Children’s Choir
BBC Symphony Chorus
rec. 2017, Watford Colosseum
DUTTON EPOCH 2CDLX7356 SACD [2 discs: 146.19]

This issue, a world premiere on disc, is an invaluable addition to the recorded repertoire of British music. Not simply as an exercise in musical archaeology but also for the intrinsic merits of this extraordinary score, once very popular, and a particular favourite of Dame Clara Butt.

There is a tendency to think of English composers of the 19th Century as ‘sub-Mendelssohnian’, but this oratorio to scriptural texts demonstrates originality of expression, notably in dotted rhythms and bare octaves, but also in allusions to early traditions, such as Gregorian chant, as well as the music of Gibbons. In a few places, there is a looking-forward to Mahler. The overwhelming sense, however, is the warmth of the approach.

This is consistent with Sullivan’s ‘Argument’, published with the vocal score, in 1873, the year of the oratorio’s first publication: “In this oratorio the intention has not been to convey the spiritual idea of the Saviour as in the Messiah, or to recount the sufferings of Christ, as in the “Passionmusik”, but to set forth the Human aspect of the Life of Our Lord on earth, exemplifying it by some of the actual incidents in His career, which bear specially upon His attributes of Preacher, Healer and Prophet.”

The focus, then, is on Christ as incarnated, which is a focus different from that in the Messiah. The Crucifixion is implicit. The Light of the World has Jesus speaking to us directly – something which few composers had been willing to entertain. Over-spiritualised Christian faith struggles with the concept of what God becoming man entailed. (I recall very well a sniffy complaint about blasphemy when I wrote that Jesus would have had to cut his toenails…). Sullivan does not ignore the salvific aspect, especially in the gripping final choruses.

The figure of Jesus is set apart not only by voice – the admirable baritone of Ben McAteer – but by a special sound world. When Jesus utters directly, he is accompanied by an inner orchestra of cor anglais (not otherwise used), clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contra-bassoon and divided violas and cellos.

An extraordinary feature of Sullivan’s genius is the sensitivity of word-setting to the emotional as well as the religious meanings of given phrases. At times, he is fully prepared to unsettle as well as to comfort. Such sensitivity requires singers who attend to careful articulation, these days not always a given. The admirable BBC Chorus and soloists are all to be congratulated for the attention to this detail, though I confess occasional irritation at the habit of British oratorio vowels: ‘He shall deleever heem’ etc.

John Andrew’s handling of the long score is admirable. As well as bringing out the incidental individual beauties, he has a profound sense of the architecture of the whole.

Kudos also for the excellent Dutton engineers: sound quality is outstanding, whether heard in SACD or stereo. The combination of clarity and warmth captures Sullivan’s intentions perfectly. Production values are always admirable from Dutton. The notes are splendid, including an invaluable Theological Note from Ian Bradley, author of Lost Chords and Christian Soldiers: The Sacred Music of Arthur Sullivan (SCM). Both Sullivan’s Argument and the full libretto are included, as well as other material.

Whether this ground-breaking recording will encourage further public performances will be interesting to see. The length and number of soloists might be a deterrent, but this music touches greatness and deserves more than silence.

Michael Wilkinson

 



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger