Digital recording processes, efficient marketing, and above all the work of conductor Ronald Corp in bringing back to life late nineteenth and early twentieth century music that has lain moribund and neglected, allow music lovers like me a first opportunity to hear Sir Arthur Sullivan's "The Golden Legend".
I have listened six times to this recording. Each time I find new details or effects in the music that reinforce my admiration for Sir Arthur Sullivan. A quick perusal of the Longfellow poem on which the work is based and a look at the synopsis provided with the recording have been enough to show that its Faust-like story would have familiar, meaningful and fascinating enough to justify this work's enormous popularity in Sullivan's time. Nowadays, at least to me, it seems preposterous
Nevertheless the music repays close attention. Within the bounds of decorum that Sullivan always preserved in his music, there is a wonderful range of inventiveness, harmonic progression and melody. The forces include five soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ.
Timed to provide a satisfying evening's music making in the 1880s, the music runs for just over 90 minutes. Hyperion have marketed the two CD set for the price of one.
The recording venue was a church in south London that I used to attend many years ago. Rarely have I heard choral singing so well caught on record. The soloists have fresh young voices. If veteran record collectors have a hazy recollection of having sampled this work before, it might derive from a stunning recording of an excerpt called "The night is calm" made by the Australian soprano Florence Austral.