Sir Arthur Sullivan: Songs

Sir Arthur Sullivan: Songs

by Ashley RichesAshley Riches


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Arthur Sullivan always wanted to be known more as a serious composer than one of comic opera, and his "Symphony in E minor (Irish)" and his grand opera "Ivanhoe," immensely popular in its own time, have been revived in recent decades. The same cannot be said of his songs, which are all but unknown except for "The Lost Chord." That chestnut is not even included on this expansive two-disc survey, a highly worthwhile look into Sullivan the song composer. The songs do fall into categories, ordered on the program and described in the informative booklet as Shakespearean Settings, Famous Poets, Songs to Words by Lionel Lewin (a friend of Sullivan in his early adulthood), The Beginning, The "Liederkreis" of Sullivan and Tennyson, Songs from the Stage, Foreign Tongues, and In Conclusion (for the moment -- apparently further releases are on the way, suggesting just how neglected this aspect of Sullivan's output has been). Certainly they're a mixed bag, but many are attractive, with Mendelssohn and Schubert (as with the "Irish" symphony) the main models. Lovers of the Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas will find some echoes of those here, and not all pertaining to the sentimental numbers of the dull, romantic leads. The triplet beat of the famous G&S patter songs is turned to new purposes in several places, and one number, "Birds in the Night," even has a tune from Sullivan's pre-Gilbert operetta "Cox and Box," furnished with new words by Lewin. G&S fans might also sample "Arabian Love Song," to a text by Shelley, which renders Verdi in a few deft strokes, in just the way the comic operas do with various composers. The foreign-language pieces on the second disc, mostly written for plays, are workmanlike, and represent a genre not much heard from any composer, although it was common enough in the 19th century. The songs range from "O Israel" of 1855, Sullivan's first published composition, to the lovely "O swallow, swallow," another song in which one can hear echoes of the elegant madrigals of the comic opera; it dates from the last year of Sullivan's life. The trio of singers, soprano Mary Bevan, tenor Ben Johnson, and bass-baritone Ashley Riches, all have an instinct for the dimensions of these songs. Highly recommended for Gilbert & Sullivan fans or for any lover of the Romantic art song.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/17/2017
Label: Chandos
UPC: 0095115193525
catalogNumber: 10935
Rank: 242657


  1. Old Love Letters, song for voice & piano
  2. Ever, song for voice & piano
  3. Sad memories, song for voice & piano
  4. Bid me at least good-bye, song for voice & piano
  5. O swallow, swallow, song for voice & piano
  6. What does little birdie say?, song for voice & piano
  7. St. Agnes' Eve, song for voice & piano
  8. O Israel, sacred song for voice & piano
  9. None but I can say, for voice & piano
  10. I wish to tune my quiv'ring lyre, song for voice & piano

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