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An uneven pairing.
on 10 January 2006
That Sullivan's non-Gilbertian work is now receiving something more like its fair share of attention is a most welcome development. Many hitherto little-known works have proved to be fully worthy of the Sullivan we know, and a few (most notably, perhaps, The Golden Legend) have added a whole new dimension to our appreciation of his ability. Unfortunately, The Prodigal Son is not in this category: in fact, it is a major disappointment. The opening and the closing choruses are excellent, as is the lively choral fugue "Oh that men would therfore praise the Lord"; but little else carries much distinction, and some sections are frankly poor. This early oratorio is of little more than academic interest (Sullivan's next work in the genre, The Martyr of Antioch, is better by a quantum leap).
The Boer War Te Deum, almost the last work of the composer's life, is in a different category. A short, sombre and dignified work, making interesting use of Sullivan's much earlier hymn tune "Onward, Christian Soldiers", this is carefully structured and builds up to an imposing climax, showing Sullivan the serious composer at his best. Buy the disc for this excellent choral work, and regard the few distinguished sections of its companion piece as a bonus.