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ARTHUR SULLIVAN The Light of the World [SACD Hybrid Multi-channel] Reviews for the product - ARTHUR SULLIVAN The Light of the World

[SACD Hybrid Multi-channel]
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2 Product Reviews - Average rating 5 / 5 (Best Rated | Worst Rated | Most Recent | Oldest)

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The rehabilitation of 'serious' Sullivan continues

- 02/16/2019

What a stunning achievement! As I have mentioned in an earlier review elsewhere on this site, I have had an interest in all things Sullivan-related for over 40 years. It is wonderful therefore now to be able to add to my CD collection a full-scale professional recording of The Light of the World of such beauty and quality as this.

Whilst I had previously heard (or played in piano/organ arrangements) a few portions of the work, nothing prepared me for the sheer scale, intensity and emotional impact of Sullivan’s score as demonstrated in this performance. As he has previously shown for Dutton Epoch, conductor John Andrews appears to possess an innate understanding of Sullivan and is absolutely committed to bringing the composer's music to life in the best possible way. Under him, the BBC Concert Orchestra tackle the work as if it were in their blood and as if the oratorio had been continuously in the mainstream repertoire since its first performance in 1873. Top-drawer orchestral forces such as are heard here do so much to reveal the glories of Sullivan’s scoring and to help make the contemporary case for a neglected part of his output.

Fully complementing the conductor and orchestra, Dutton has assembled a fine team of soloists, all of whom project the sincerity and humanity which shine out from Sullivan’s settings of a wide range of biblical texts. Such is the strength of all the individual vocal contributions, it almost seems inappropriate to single out one artist above another. However, special mention must be made of baritone Ben McAteer in the demanding central role of Jesus. I should also say that contralto Kitty Whately brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes when I first played her superb rendering of ‘Weep ye not for the dead’.

As if this were not enough, we also have the collective might of the BBC Symphony Chorus to reckon with. Although the balance between the higher and lower male voices is occasionally compromised by the apparently smaller number of tenors than basses in the choir and the high tenor tessitura in some of the choruses produces one or two moments of strain, overall the choral singing has attack, weight and presence. The solid wall of sound generated, for example, at the block-chordal conclusion of ‘Men and brethren’ is most impressive.

The CD package is further enhanced by very informative booklet notes from Martin Yates and Ian Bradley.

In conclusion, this is an outstanding release and huge thanks are due to Dutton, the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, BBC Radio 3 and musicologist Robin Gordon Powell for making it possible. Let us hope that our larger choral societies now take up The Light of the World so that Sullivan’s heartfelt work can take its rightful place in the line of succession from Mendelssohn through to Elgar and beyond.


A wonderful realization of a wrongfully underrated and maligned work

- 12/20/2018

This is Sullivan’s second and last oratorio in the strictest sense of the genre in the English-speaking world before WW1. Although he would continue to write large choral works for festivals throughout his career, the later works, though thematically sacred, are not based on biblical narrative and text so they can’t be termed “oratorios.” This was also true of Elgar’s “Dream of Gerontius.”
Even in his earliest oratorio “The Prodigal Son” (1869) Sullivan begins to depart from traditional oratorios by focusing on the human aspects of the selected biblical narrative rather than its religious dogma. He further develops this in “The Light of the World.” Indeed, it has long been recognized that his large choral works are opera-oratorio hybrids. For instance, in “The Light of the World” one can find early examples of arioso writing techniques he would later use in his operas “Ivanhoe” and “Beauty Stone.”
The performance here does justice to the work. The soloists, BBC Symphony Chorus and Kinder Children’s Choir are all very good and so is the BBC Concert Orchestra. Conductor John Andrews keeps the work moving at a purposefully spirited pace and carefully shapes phrases and gives proper attention to drama and dynamics.
As the present recording is the first professionally performed commercial recording of the work with an orchestra, its “World Premiere” designation is justified. This recording uses a new edition of the score by Robin Gordon-Powell which represents Sullivan’s original intentions before he felt compelled to make revisions in the form of cuts to reduce its performance duration. Unlike a number of other musical works, restoring cuts here actually enhances this work as its numbers are more fleshed-out and elaborated in very creative ways.
Dutton has provided a recorded sound that is both warm and clear. Buy with confidence.


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