Sir Arthur Sullivan:
Music to Shakespeare's Tempest

The Vienna Orchestral Society
Patricia Brinton, soprano
F. Charles Adler, conductor

Sounds on CD VGS 212
Sounds on CD VGS 212

Sullivan's incidental music to The Tempest, written towards the end of his Leipzig conservatory days, was the work that first caught the attention of London's musical cognoscenti and propelled the young composer into the public spotlight that he would hold for the next forty years.

This recording by F. Charles Adler and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (moonlighting as the "Vienna Orchestral Society" for contractual reasons) was made in the days when "nobody" played anything of Sullivan's other than the Savoy Operas. It's a pity that the recording isn't better known. The Unicorn label folded not long after it came out, making this one of the rarest G&S recordings ever issued on LP. A bit of the recording was also included on a "Unicorn Sampler" disc. There is now a CD re-issue on Chris Webster's "Sounds on CD" label (coupled with a 1908 recording of the Graceful Dance from Henry VIII).

Jim Drew thinks that this is the best recording ever made of any non-operatic Sullivan work, and I agree with him that it is quite special. Here is his review:

It really is a remarkable performance. On hearing it, the discerning ear can detect how excited the young Sullivan must have been in discovering the music of Schumann and Schubert. The musical language is a combination of the best of both, and little Arthur learned his lessons well. In the Birmingham recording, the feeling is that here is an interesting footnote to a talent that was best displayed in other venues. Listening to the Vienna performance, you hold your breath and try to enter into the sound—and you realise that here is a composer who could (at that moment in his life) have done absolutely anything. I have never regretted (like some of his contemporaries) that he devoted himself to the comic stage, but hearing this performance, I do regret that he never again lived up to the potential this music proved he had.

Jim later added: "Adler, a refugee from Berlin & Vienna, married a Hollywood millionairess, and could afford to record anything he liked." Jim doesn't think that any more than a few hundred copies of the disc were pressed. Ron Orenstein added:

I would place this as my #1 choice for a professional Sullivan recording now that we have Rose of Persia — it is absolutely delightful and very memorable (I can still hum bits and it's been decades since I heard it), even if it does sound an awful lot like Mendelssohn.

The recording also includes three numbers from Sullivan's Henry VII incidental music, which the sleeve note annotator believes are on a far lower plane than that of The Tempest. Detailed contents are as follows:

Side 1Side 2
Act I
Song: "Come unto these yellow sands" (Ariel)
Song: "Full fathom five thy father lies" (Ariel)
Act II
Ariel's Music
Melodrama and Song: "While you here do snoring lie" (Ariel)
Banquet Dance
Act IV
Masque of Iris, Ceres, Juno
Duet: "Honour, riches, marriage blessings" (Juno and Ceres)
Act IV (continued)
Dance of nymphs and reapers
Act V
Song: "Where the bee sucks" (Ariel)

Incidental Music to Shakespeare's Henry VIII
Allegro moderato alla marcia
Graceful Dance
Water Music
Issue History
1956UnicornMono LPUNLP 1014
1988Sir Arthur Sullivan SocietyCassette[unnumbered]
1999 Sounds on CD CD VGS 212