on 26 August 2009
The music of Sir Edward German (1862-1936) has been increasingly well-served in recent years: two very impressive discs from the Dutton label (CDLX 7156 and CDLX 7202) (giving us a comprehensive survey of his orchestral music, beautifully played and recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra under John Wilson) supplement two fine Marco Polo discs from the 1990s.
For many listeners, Edward German will be known primarily as the composer of the comic opera 'Merrie England' written for the Savoy in 1902, a work which at the time seemed to herald a new and exciting operatic partnership with Basil Hood (the skilled librettist for Arthur Sullivan's last completed opera 'The Rose of Persia', 1899). Indeed, when Sullivan died in 1900 leaving his next collaboration with Hood 'The Emerald Isle' unfinished, Edward German was chosen by Richard and Helen D'Oyly Carte to complete the work which was subsequently unveiled in 1901 to considerable acclaim.
Perhaps the jewel among German's operatic scores is 'Tom Jones', first performed in Manchester in 1907 and swiftly transferred to London's Apollo Theatre. There has been a previous recording of highlights (now available on a Classics for Pleasure coupling with 'The Beggar's Opera'), but it has been a long wait for a complete recording of this masterly work. From the hugely impressive opening chorus (pitting a busily-chattering female group against their hunting spouses) to the joyous finale, German provides number after number which will remain in the memory long after the performance has finished.
In every way, this new recording from Naxos is a triumph. The soloists are consistently fine and bring their colourful characters vividly to life. The chorus and orchestra are a pleasure to listen to as well, greatly aided by the excellence of the recording in which words are crystal clear and orchestral details are exceptionally well-defined. David Russell Hulme (a leading expert in the life and music of Edward German) proves the ideal comic opera conductor with vivacious tempi and a sure handling of the tricky and elaborate Finales to Acts One and Two. Hulme has also edited the score from the composer's manuscript and various other sources in order to give us as faithful and complete a recording as possible: we are given the rare chance to hear three numbers cut during the original run and each proves a joy. Fascinating background notes and a detailed synopsis add to the quality of this release - all in all, a superb achievement which does great credit to Naxos and will hopefully lead to other similar projects.
on 4 July 2010
Other reviewers have summed this up perfectly. Most enjoyable, great music and worth every penny! It's a mystery to me why in this country we ignore works like this which should be in our national repertoire.
I have listened to this several times now with a score from ebay and with each listening I have become more impressed with German's achievement. The two big finales are superb and I am slightly ashamed to say that I find them quite moving! Things have moved on from Sullivan's time and the orchestration is much richer and positively Elgarian at times. A couple of passages I'm sure influenced later musical composers including Richard Rogers. I love the low rich chords with full orchestra at the ends of pieces, and brass are used much more prominantly than Sullivan's scores, with some lovely passionate counter-melodies for the horns.
David Russell Hulme does not put a foot wrong. His love for the music shines through in the care and attention to detail. To be picky, he doesn't have the Royal Philharmonic at his command and there are one or two intonational challenges in the brass, including a little horn burble hidden in the Prologue which I'm surprised was missed. Strings and woodwind are excellent. However these are minor criticisms and in a way add to the live character of the performance.
The soloists without exception are excellent. Marianne Hellgren Staykov sings the virtuosic arias with great panache - just a hint of accent at times - "the san in 'ees flight". The chorus also is good, but being small could perhaps have had the volume boosted in some tutti sections.
All in all, thoroughly recommended and I look forward to the next release.
on 28 March 2010
An excellent job on an operetta we've all been waiting for. It starts a little slow but picks up greatly. Good singers, good orchestra, good lyrics, good music, who could ask for more.
on 18 August 2009
Sadly,Edward German is one of those composers that few have heard of,and even more sadly fewer have actually heard the music of.
Hopefully this new recording of the complete "Tom Jones" may rectifiy that.
I didn't know much of German's work (apart from Merrie England) but now am quite hooked on this recording.
The Classics for pleasure recording of "Merrie England is great,but suffers somewhat due to it's age,this cannot be said of Tom Jones.
It has a cast chosen for their abilty not only to fit the roles,but also their diction,essential when singing in English,is exemplary.
Selling (as of August 2009)at £6.98,it is a something that can't be overlooked,by either lovers of the musical period that German wrote for,or just anyone who likes Edwardian Operetta.
By the way, the second disc is "filled out" by 3 arias from Tom Jones that were deleted before the production reached the stage,so a real "complete" Tom Jones it is!
Go on,you know you want to.I can guarantee you won't regret it.
I really like G&S. My wife doesn't. We both quite like this and there is certainly nothing here to scare the horses. It is perfectly pleasant, infectiously memorable music and is indisputably of some musical merit, although only the most ardent "Germanites" could pretend that it is anything more. It receives an excellent performance here, under the expert direction of David Russell Hulme. It is musically complete, including some (actually very fine) numbers omitted early on. The character parts are in the expert hands of Donald Maxwell, Simon Butteriss and Richard Suart, the first two adopting amusing "Zummerset" accents with some aplomb. Heather Shipp sings well as Honour, as does the Swedish soprano Marianne Hellgren Staykov. Her English is excellent and she makes a good job of her celebrated waltz song, a shrieked last note notwithstanding. Richard Morrison is a fine Tom, without quite erasing memories of Frederick Harvey on the EMI highlights disc, a "filler" on the Sargent "Beggar's Opera." Smaller parts are capably taken by some fine young singers and the choral contributions are first-rate. Lovers of British light music will find much to enjoy here.
on 22 October 2009
Especially at the issue price, we must be very grateful to Naxos for filling another gap in the catalogue of modern recordings of English operetta. It is well worth having this 2 CD set, which presents the full score plus extra items left out of the final production. The performance is generally excellent and does the work full justice. The 4 stars are for the quality of the recording and the performance. I have held back the final star simply because I feel that whilst it is interesting to hear this work it does not have the impact of Merrie England or of any of the great Savoy operettas or even of that other unjustly neglected work by Monckton and Talbot 'The Arcadians'. In the final analysis, Tom Jones is a competent and entertaining operetta, but it does not have the wow factor. In particular it is missing the great memorable tunes that instantly strike you on first hearing and remain in the memory long after. I came away from two successive hearings of this recording, not remembering a single tune, and memorable tunes are vital in great operetta.
on 9 March 2014
An excellent recording of a musical which is seldom seen these days, it had added interest when I realised that I knew a couple of the artists on the recording and had appeared on stage with them.
on 28 June 2014
German's Merrie England is well know. This is less so, so it is great to have this reminder of a beautiful ,score.
on 26 September 2013
Very useful - it was interesting to find how the full stage version differs so much from the concert version
on 23 July 2014
Thoroughly enjoyable. Informative booklet suppled. Would recommend.