This is something rather special. Following on from Hyperion's marvellous complete recording of 'The Geisha' by Sidney Jones (1896), here we have a comprehensive and beautifully performed selection of songs and duets by Jones' contemporary Lionel Monckton (1861-1924). Writing for shows at the Gaiety, Daly's and other London theatres, Monckton provided hit after hit in enormously successful musical comedies from 'The Shop Girl' (1894) to 'The Quaker Girl' (1910) and beyond. It is difficult now to imagine just how successful these productions were, several running for two years and more.
The selection on this disc is exemplary in its variety and coverage: rollicking numbers are set alongside the sentimental, comic against romantic. Each one is a real gem, but particular highlights are 'Try again, Johnnie' (A Country Girl, 1902), 'The Boy Guessed Right' (A Runaway Girl, 1898), 'When I Marry Amelia' (The Toreador, 1901), 'My Cinnamon Tree' (The Cingalee, 1904), 'Two Little Sausages' (The Girls of Gottenberg, 1907) and 'Moonstruck' (Our Miss Gibbs, 1909).
Catherine Bott and Richard Suart lead us through the unfamiliar territory with great panache and a true understanding of just how to deliver this material. Catherine Bott, in particular, creates an enormous range of characters, from the cynicism of 'Try again, Johnnie' to the feigned innocence of the Yorkshire lass 'Mary' (Our Miss Gibbs). Ronald Corp is at the helm and conducts with his customary skill, clearly loving this repertoire and conveying that enthusiasm to the listener. Orchestra and chorus contributions and likewise superb (if, as might well be the case, the original orchestrations haven't survived, these are wonderfully idiomatic reconstructions).
All in all, a truly splendid tribute to a 'lost' composer and a scandalously neglected genre. Perhaps a similar disc devoted to Monckton's collaborator Ivan Caryll (1861-1921) should now be considered.