Discography of Sir Arthur Sullivan:
Vocal Compilations and Choral Works

The Light of the World (197-?)

Joan Polwin, soprano
Marion Hughes, contralto
David Sainsbury, tenor
John Polwin, baritone

Combined choirs of the
Worthing United Reformed Churches &
Congregational Players

Conductor: Richard Hews
Recording engineer: John Pound
Programme notes by Terence Rees

This is a live recording of an oratorio Sullivan wrote in 1873, The Light of the World. Martin Wright wrote to me about the record, of which he said: "I have never listened to it except the first few bars, as these were so abominably sung I couldn't bear any more." A few days later, he gave it another try and gave a slightly more favorable report:

Since last writing, I have listened to much of this record. Despite the poor quality of singing and recording, it is interesting to hear this work: there is obviously some good writing in it. Like so much of Sullivan's work, this would seem to have been neglected.

The liner notes observe that, sometime after the premiere, Sullivan made a number of cuts to reduce the work's length, and it is this version that is recorded. The recording also omits the section of the work that concerns Lazarus.

Issue History
197-? Rare Recorded Editions LP SRRE.150/1

The Songs of Sir Arthur Sullivan (197-?)

Gretchen Chellson, soprano
Tom Gligoroff, piano

The Sir Arthur Sullivan Society sponsored this recording of Sullivan songs, many of which had either never, or not recently, been recorded. Contents are as follows:

Side 1Side 2
  1. The Dove Song
  2. The Lost Chord
  3. O Fair Dove! O Fond Dove!
  4. Sometimes
  5. The Willow Song
  6. Orpheus with his Lute
  7. Where the Bee Sucks (from The Tempest)
  1. I Heard the Nightingale
  2. Bid Me At Least Goodbye
  3. The Love that Loves Me Not
  4. The Young Mother – Three Simple Songs
    1. Cradle Song
    2. Ay de mi, my bird
    3. The First Departure
  5. Let Me Dream Again
Issue History
197-? Fond Dove Records Stereo LP SUL 001

The Martyr of Antioch

Sacred Musical Drama by Arthur Sullivan

Penelope Beavan, soprano
Debora Miles-Johnson, contralto
Stephen Chaytow, tenor
Anthony Barratt, baritone
Richard Stockton, bass

Chorus & Orchestra of Imperial Opera
Michael Withers, conductor

The Martyr of Antioch is the least known Gilbert & Sullivan collaboration. The bulk of the text came from a poem by the Rev'd Henry Hart Millman, but Sullivan called on Gilbert to condense the source and to rewrite some of the blank verse into rhyming couplets.

This is an adequate recording by strong amateur forces. Microphone placement is sub-optimal, and so the singers are not always heard to full advantage. Nevertheless, one gets a good idea of the score's many fine moments.

The recording is, for all intents and purposes, now superseded by the newer one on Symposium.

Issue History
1983 Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Cassette [unnumbered]

Imperial Ode / King Arthur / The Prodigal Son

Imperial Opera
Michael Withers, conductor
Robert Dean, conductor

This is the best recording of Sullivan choral music that I have heard. The chorus and soloists acquit themselves with professional polish. The orchestra playing, if not quite professional, is very solid most of the time. The recording engineer doesn't quite live up to the level of the performers. The acoustic between singers and orchestra is not as well balanced as it should be, and there are some glitches in the tape. Nevertheless, this is a recording I am delighted to have.

The Imperial Ode is perhaps the least interesting of the three pieces. The forces here give about as good a performance as we're likely to hear, but I don't think Sullivan had his heart in this type of piece. It was the type of perfunctory choral writing that he often dashed off for special occasions.

King Arthur fills out the first half of the cassette, and one notices an immediate difference. This is Sullivan in his most congenial element—the theatre. Unfortunately, we have only five numbers from the play, but they give tantalizing hints of what a full Arthurian opera by Sullivan might have been like.

The Prodigal Son is a most impressive choral work, and it is a pity that it has fallen out of the repertory. There are many masterstrokes that remind one of Handel, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and Verdi at their best. Perhaps the lack of a distinctive Sullivanian style is the work's chief shortcoming, but one must remember that he was not yet thirty when he wrote it. The banal final chorus is the only place where the work disappoints, but this is not Imperial Opera's fault.

For an issue by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, it is a bit disappointing that there are no liner notes, nor are the soloists' names provided. It is not even clear which of the two conductors leads each work. The performances, however, are first-rate, making this a cassette I can enthusiastically recommend.

Issue History
1995 Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Cassette [unnumbered]

If Doughty Deeds (1992)

Jeffrey Benton, baritone
Rona Lowe, piano

This is a cassette comprising both solo piano pieces and detached songs. Stephen Turnbull described it as "an interesting collection, but only so-so performances. The singer, Jeffrey Benton, is OK in a four-square sort of way, and Rona Lowe accompanies adequately. However, her interpretation of some of the piano pieces is bizarre.

Contents are as follows:

Piano Solo
Day Dreams
Voice and Piano
If doughty deeds
Mary Morison
Arabian Love Song
Voice and Piano (cont'd)
Little Darling, Sleep Again
The Love that Loves me not
Little Maid of Arcadee (Thespis)
I Want to Proclaim it Aloud
Tears, Idle Tears
I am a Ruler on the Sea (Kenilworth)
Edward Gray
Issue History

Sullivan, Festival Te Deum
Puccini, Messa di Gloria

Vanessa Scott, soprano
Jack Cornwell, tenor
Michael Lock, baritone

Biggleswade & District Choral Society
Howard Parkhouse, conductor
Ian Smith, orchestra leader
Barry Bygraves, organ

Recorded Live at St. Andrew's Church, Bedford
7th May 1994

This is a very well made amateur recording of Sullivan's Festival Te Deum, a relatively youthful work that the composer wrote to celebrate the Prince of Wales's recovery from typhoid.

The biggest problem with the recording is the coupling with the Messa di Gloria, a youthful Puccini work that is a far sturdier than Sullivan's, and makes the latter seem like the ephemeral pièce d'occasion that it apparently was.