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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Sullivan - The Prodigal Son, Boer War Te Deum
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 12 November 2003
Following on from Ronald Corp's pioneering first recording of Sullivan's 'The Golden Legend' (1886), the enterprising recording company Hyperion presents two more major choral works by this consistently underrated composer. 'The Prodigal Son' was written for the Three Choirs Festival in 1869 and totally gives the lie to any notions of mid-Victorian Britain being a 'land without music'. Whilst there are echoes of Mendelssohn, as one would expect, there is a great deal that is fresh and vital in this music: the orchestration is consistently imaginative and the chorus are given interesting and varied work. Although none of the arias is especially long, the characters of the prodigal and his father are clearly drawn. The 'Boer War Te Deum' (1900) is a moving and intricately written tribute to those in the British military campaign (ultimately not a glorious outcome) and incorporates Sullivan's own earlier hymn tune 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. All performers on this recording give of their best, with some particularly fine orchestral and choral work. This music deserves a wide hearing and will surprise many listeners who think that Sullivan's achievements lay exclusively on the operatic stage. Strongly recommended.
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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.
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on 3 August 2004
This recording transports us back to the world of the Victorian provincial music festival, where the public were edified by the performance of improving tales set to unimpeachably respectable music. 'The Prodigal Son' is for the most part the sort of Mendelssohn-and-water this public demanded, with Sullivan's natural talent for melody and orchestration kept under tight reign. Significantly, the most musically striking passage illustrates the Prodigal's slide into debauchery; apart from that it's all just a little bit dull, particularly towards the end, though the Son's aria 'How many hired servants' and the ensuing hushed reprise of the opening chorus have some pathos. More fun is the 'Boer War Te Deum', with its uproarious conclusion featuring 'Onward Christian Soldiers' on brass band, here given a more sumptuous orchestral sound than on the earlier Oxford Pro Musica recording. Soloists and orchestra acquit themselves well but the chorus is no more than adequate: the tone is raw and worn and the intonation distinctly flat. That said, those who are interested in this repertory should not hesitate -- another recording is not likely to be along any time soon.
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on 23 July 2015
It is great that a recording of a lesser known Sullivan work is available, but it deserves a top choir. The ensemble singing is generally fine but when the chorus's voices enter separately they are regrettably under the pitch. Fine performances from all soloists.
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on 8 February 2015
Very good recordings - excellent soloists and lovely choral work. The Te Deum is quite stirring.
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on 12 November 2013
As Sullivan's last completed operetta, this is a charming musical work and is well-performed, both by singers and orchestra . A welcome acquisition.
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on 30 April 2016
does what it says on the cover
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