Here’s my tribute to a composer whose work I’ve been into since I was four years old. He’s the English classical music composer, Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan. Most people only know of his partnership with the dramatist William Schwenck Gilbert (think “The Pirates of Penzance”, “H.M.S. Pinafore”, and “The Mikado”). His compositional versatility has only been re-evaluated since the mid-20th century. This aspect of his career continually astounds me. How could the guy who wrote the music for “The Pirates of Penzance” also write “The Lost Chord”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, the operas “Ivanhoe” and “The Beauty Stone”, the “Irish” Symphony, and “Overture di Ballo”? Some of these are still performed occasionally, though the two serious operas are rarities that have only recently been given their due, with important professional recordings. Sullivan wrote his best work for musicians like himself, but he wrote his lighthearted theater pieces for money, which I continually forget. There are beautiful moments in both types of pieces, music lovers, so open your hearts and listen joyfully. I present a sampling of Gilbert and Sullivan plus some delightful moments from his serious pieces. Here’s a toast to the versatile career of this musical knight. May his versatility be remembered and Sullibrated throughout the world! May we sing and play his praises loudly so all may hear! Three cheers for Sir Arthur! Hip, hip, hurrah!
I’d like to share with you some music from the last two Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Many people think that in terms of his output of light music, these are some of Sullivan’s most tuneful pieces. Such a shame that they are rarely performed, due to their large casts and excessive lengths, but on the positive side, these works have many delightful musical moments!
“Utopia, Limited” Medley (9:23)
The selections are as follows:
1. “Drawing Room Music”
2. “Society Has Quite Forsaken All Her Wicked Courses” (Minstrel Song)
3. “First You’re Born”
4. “Henceforward of a Verity” (from the Act I Finale)
5. “It’s Understood, I Think”
6. “A King of Autocratic Power We”
7. “Oh, Maiden Rich”
8. “Oh Make Way for the Wise Men!” / “In Every Mental Lore”
9. “There’s a Little Group of Isles Beyond the Wave” (Act II Finale)
Here are the bits of material from this operetta that I was able to learn so far. I arranged this as an improvised four-hand piano medley: two tracks, each with two hands worth of my piano playing. The sound I used is “Natural Grand,” which is the piano sound I’ve been using on my Yamaha Motif 6 since earlier this year. The first track consists primarily of bass lines and chords, while the second track features mostly melody lines and my own harmonic ideas on the higher notes. Gilbert’s libretto is very weak, and Sullivan’s music is reminiscent rather than fresh, but it has its charms. Enjoy this sampling from a Gilbert and Sullivan rarity!
“The Grand Duke” Medley (9:28)
The selections are as follows:
1. Overture (includes references to “The Good Grand Duke”, “Why, who is this approaching?”, “My Lord Grand Duke, Farewell” (from the Act I Finale), “Your Highness, There’s a Party at the Door”, and “Well, You’re a Pretty Kind of Fellow”)
2. “The Prince of Monte Carlo” (The Herald’s Song)
3. “Oh, a Monarch Who Boasts Intellectual Graces” (from Act I Finale)
4. Dance (Act II)
5. “By the Mystic Regulation”
6. “Come, Bumpers – Aye, Ever-So-Many” (The Baroness’s Song)
7. “For This Will Be a Jolly Court” (from Act I Finale)
Here’s what I’ve memorized thus far, from the last Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. Just as in “Utopia, Limited”, Gilbert’s libretto is flawed in many ways, but Sullivan’s score is another praiseworthy effort. It’s another improvised four-hand piano joy-fest!
That’s all I have so far, but keep checking back! There might be something new!