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Sullivan: The Beauty Stone [Rory Macdonald, Elin Manahan Thomas, Toby Spence] [Chandos: CHAN 10794(2)] Double CD

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Sullivan: The Beauty Stone [Rory Macdonald, Elin Manahan Thomas, Toby Spence] [Chandos: CHAN 10794(2)]
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Product details

  • Conductor: Rory Macdonald
  • Composer: Sir Arthur Sullivan
  • Audio CD (4 Nov. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Double CD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B00FMWCJPK
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,043 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Sir Arthur Sullivan is best known for his famous collaboration with W.S. Gilbert, a supreme partnership the fruits of which have tended to overshadow Sullivan's other musical endeavours. The Beauty Stone falls into this category of neglected works. A serious operatic work of epic duration, it was a surprising flop at its premiere in 1898, a time when Sullivan was at the height of his career. The audience was expecting something more in the mould of the composer's fleet and nimble comic operas, and was unprepared for a work of such size and seriousness. Subsequently, Sullivan made dramatic edits to the score, removing some of the work's most delightful music, but in this new recording all of the omitted music has been restored. The strength of the opera is undoubtedly its many fine melodies, superb orchestration, and excellent characterisation, as well as a vivid atmosphere suitably suggestive of the romantic mediaeval setting of the plot. This, the premiere commercial recording of the work is cast with some of the finest singers on the stage today and is conducted by Rory Macdonald, one of Britain's most talented, dynamic young conductors. This release follows the highly regarded recording of Sullivan's Ivanhoe.

Review

There's some lovely playing from the BBC NOW, particulary in the score's more reflective mments.This release will please listeners far beyond the Sullivan Society , whose generosity enabled the recording to be made. --Gramophone, Jan'14

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
After a total flop of an original production, this work lay almost completely untouched for over 100 years. The fault was certainly not Sullivan's. Musically this must rank among his greatest achievements and while it is incredibly tuneful - and much of it lodges in the brain after just one hearing - it is very unlike his work with Gilbert, especially in the use of leitmotiv. The orchestration is especially fine and impressive.

This is most definitely opera with one or two moments of operetta and is a far better work than his own opera Ivanhoe (which has some great moments but pales enormously beside this piece). Chandos has pulled out all the stops with an incredible cast and Rory Macdonald wrings excitement, drama and pathos out of the orchestra and from Sullivan's score. Kudos to the Sullivan Society, without whom this would never have happened.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a truly superb recording of one of Sir Arthur Sullivan's most unfairly-maligned scores: 'The Beauty Stone' can at last take its place with 'The Yeomen of the Guard' and 'The Golden Legend' as one of the composer's crowning achievements. Composed just a couple of years before his premature death, Sullivan was still at the height of his powers and he produced a musical drama of great colour, melodic richness and emotional depth. The alert and vigorous pacing of this new performance is just how I imagined it should be, having known the Prince Consort version (Sullivan - The Beauty Stone) for nearly thirty years: "O'er Mirlemont city", "With Cards and dice" and "Hobble, hobble" are here taken respectively fast, faster and even faster. The public scenes are given an appropriate sense of bustle, and the final sections of the Act 1/ Act 3 finales are thrilling. This is not to imply that anything is hurried over - Rory Macdonald is clearly someone who simply has dramatic blood in his veins and instinctively knows when the push on. I was also pleased that he does not take the entire Act 3 finale at crotchet=dotted crotchet, which the PC recording does (thus leaving Jacqueline with the most laboured plod).

Chorus and orchestra alike are superb and the recording is slightly more forward than that given to "Ivanhoe" - the soloists seem to have given perhaps more character and thought to their roles than (generally) those in the "Ivanhoe" recording.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It is amazing how often over the centuries press and public alike have just got it so very wrong. One has only to think of the fiasco of the first production of Bizet's CARMEN. With THE BEAUTY STONE, the public and press of 1898 can, perhaps, be forgiven, although having said that, had they had the foresight to look beneath the surface, maybe they would have seen the beauty that was hidden beneath. Alas, it has taken 115 years for this remarkable piece to be brought back to life, but we are the winners and can only regret the neglect that has deprived many generations of the opportunity to hear this remarkable piece.

If fault must be apportioned, then firstly and foremost it should go to Arthur Wing Pinero (author of THE MAGISTRATE, TRELAWNEY OF THE WELLS etc.) for, although he provides an incredibly strong storyline, his interminable dialogue, written in a mock-medieval dialect, basically killed the piece stone dead. Despite pleas from Sullivan to cut and tighten, Pinero would not listen resulting in a first night performance lasting for well over 4 hours (given that this recording of the complete, uncut score lasts for just over 2 hours, that indicates enough spoken dialogue for another full-length play). Pinero then realised his mistake, but by the time he had produced a revised libretto the damage was done and it was too late. THE BEAUTY STONE closed after just 50 performances.

Richard D'Oyly Carte, too, must shoulder some of the blame for his complete miscalculations regarding the cost of the production. His need to import expensive opera singers for the roles of Philip and Saida and an increased chorus. But also his miscalculation about the type of piece that would appeal to a Savoy audience. THE BEAUTY STONE is quite unlike any other piece to play at the Savoy.
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Format: Audio CD
Although the 1980s Prince Consort recording of The Beauty Stone was a valiant effort in pointing up the glories of a profound, complex work, this new recording is a major milestone for Sullivan enthusiasts and lovers of British opera. Huge credit is due to Chandos and the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society for a worthy successor to 2009's Ivanhoe and to Robin Gordon-Powell, whose musicological dedication means that we can experience the opera as originally conceived.

Repeated listening to Ivanhoe has not dispelled the impression that, notwithstanding some wonderful set pieces and outstanding individual performances, the work as a whole lacks dramatic cohesion and provides a musical experience which is somehow less than the sum of its parts. This may be due not only to Sturgis' and Sullivan's own conception but also to the ponderous tempi adopted in places in the Chandos production and an unevenness of quality in the soloists.

Few such criticisms can be made of the current opera or its performance. The wordiness and cod-mediaevalism of his dialogue aside, Pinero's plot is fundamentally strong and the challenge of giving Carr's diffuse lyrics musical expression clearly engendered some of Sullivan's finest work. In response, conductor Rory Macdonald motivates chorus and orchestra to give of their very best and he brings palpable focus and energy to the proceedings.

Of the principals, Toby Spence, Stephen Gadd and Catherine Wyn-Rogers match here their fine contributions to Ivanhoe. Mr Spence as Philip skilfully adapts his vocal personality to the dramatic situation and Ms Wyn-Rogers as Joan conveys maternal authority and protectiveness.
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