March 2001 BBC Music Magazine Sullivan CD

Macbeth Overture
Cello Concerto

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Paul Watkins, cello
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Festival Te Deum

London Choral Society
BBC Concert Orchestra
Teresa Cahill, soprano
Margaret Phillips, organ
Ronald Corp, conductor

BBC MM 203
BBC MM 203

Sullivan fans were in heaven when BBC Music Magazine published its second all-Sullivan recording in three years (see The Rose of Persia, 1999). About the only thing better would have been a full commercial release — as it is, this CD won't be available except to those who happened to buy the March 2001 issue of the magazine when it was on newstands.

Stephen Turnbull wrote:

The Festival Te Deum is a recording made in 1988 especially for inclusion in that year's series of Composer of the Week programmes: Sullivan was Composer of the Week over Christmas week, so I didn't even have to take time off work to hear the programmes! It's an excellent performance, the only flaws being the absence of the military band and Teresa Cahill's tone, which is plummy in places (her diction is not perfect either). Until a world-shattering new version comes along complete with military band, this disc is an absolute must for any Sullivan enthusuast.

By the way, the Festival Te Deum has been done once or twice in recent years with the military band (it's been done dozens of times without it), most notably as part of the 1992 Sullivan Festival in Hull, when we had a 100-strong orchestra, a "military band" provided by massed local wind bands, a chorus of 150 or so, and Kate Flowers in full flow. A great pity no recording of that one survives, although I believe there is video footage of part of a rehearsal.

The cello concerto is a lovely performance — on first hearing I prefer it to the 1986 Lloyd Webber and the 1993 Martin Ostertag versions. The Macbeth overture (the performance broadcast at the Proms) sounds stunning. There are now no fewer than six recordings of that overture in the CD catalogue.

Peter Parker wrote:

There are three items on this CD, namely: the Macbeth overture, live from last year's prom concert; the Cello Concerto; and the Festival Te Deum. The latter item is described as a world premiere recording.

The Cello Concerto is not the same performance as took place at the proms last year but was recorded at the BBC Maida Vale Studios and used Sullivan's own cello. I gather that at the proms that cello was not the one played by Watkins. For the story on this, see the Magazine article.

The Te Deum was apparently recorded (in analogue format) in 1988 but has only now been released for the first time on CD.

The CD also contains an interactive multimedia section which will only be playable on PCs.

Although in UK we have had the opportunity to hear these performances in original broadcasts and some of us may have taped them at the time, it is nice to have them now issued in a convenient CD format. My own view is that this ranks with the best Sullivan CDs I have. I think the Te Deum is great, although the Military Band is missing. A few years back the Ditchling Choir and the orchestra and band of the Royal Marines and organ conducted by Miss Cannety Clarke gave a performance of part only of this work in Portsmouth Town Hall. This was as faithful to the original intentions as could be done. I think the sound on this CD of this work runs that performance close. It was a great pity the Portsmouth occasion was not recorded. (Or if it was I don't know about it)! This performance at Portsmouth was at the time unique in that a civilian was allowed to conduct a Services orchestra and band. Miss Clarke knew that a great honour was bestowed on her for that ocasion.

Just knowing that the cello in the Cello Concerto was the one owned by Sullivan adds some authenticity to that recording. It is of course a great pity that the original score was lost in the fire at Chappell but this work is slowly becomming performed at concerts. We even had a local concert at Hastings a year or so back which included it.

Issue History
2001 BBC Music Magazine CD BBC MM 203