- Performer: Janice Watson, Mark Wilde, Jean Rigby, Jeffrey Black, Jonathan Brown, et al.
- Orchestra: New London Orchestra
- Conductor: Ronald Corp
- Composer: Arthur Sullivan
- Audio CD (October 9, 2001)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Import
- Label: Hyperion UK
- Run Time: 95.00 minutes
- ASIN: B00005NUPB
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,669 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Sullivan: The Golden Legend Import
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Top Customer Reviews
Based as it is on a very long poem by Longfellow, the libretto Sullivan set to music is little more than scenes from the original, much as Berlioz' "La Damnation de Faust" is just a relatively short string of episodes from the Goethe play. In fact, even the plots are similar. Here Prince Henry (Mark Wilde, tenor) is being stalked by Lucifer (Jeffrey Black, baritone) in many guises. Just as in the the plots of "Alceste" and "The Flying Dutchman," there is a young woman, Elsie (Janice Watson, soprano), who is willing to give up her life to save the Prince. They travel all the way to Salerno, where Henry admits he was only testing her and has no desire to lose her. Snatched from Lucifer at the last moment, she weds her Prince and they live happily ever after.
Obviously the value of this work does not rest with the plot. Nor does it with the vocal lines, which I found on this first hearing surprisingly uninspiring. They simply follow the patterns of normal English speech, while the chorus passages range from quite lovely to pedestrian.Read more ›
Of the soloists, Janice Watson is a radiant Elsie. In her aria, "The Night is calm" she almost equals Florence Austral's legendary 1926 performance (conducted by the young John Barbirolli). With the benefit of clear digital sound, Watson's performance is thrilling. Jean Rigby as Ursula is best in her duet with Watson. When she dreads the prospect of standing at her daughter's grave, dark clouds gather in the horns: a haunting passage that long lingers the in the listener's memory. In her two solo arias, I found her singing more restrained.
Mark Wilde is an excellent Prince Henry. His clear, rounded tenor is passionate, but never strident. His duet with Watson in scene VI is beautifully balanced. In scene I, he projects Prince Henry's mood of black despair with remarkable conviction and drama. Jeffrey Black is a wooly voiced Lucifer. His thick, darkly hued voice serves him best when the devil is in disguise as a physician or a friar. In the Prologue, Black is not at all a commanding force.Read more ›
I have listened six times to this recording. Each time I find new details or effects in the music that reinforce my admiration for Sir Arthur Sullivan. A quick perusal of the Longfellow poem on which the work is based and a look at the synopsis provided with the recording have been enough to show that its Faust-like story would have been familiar, meaningful and fascinating enough to justify this work's enormous popularity in Sullivan's time. Nowadays, at least to me, it seems preposterous
Nevertheless the music repays close attention. Within the bounds of decorum that Sullivan always preserved in his music, there is a wonderful range of inventiveness, harmonic progression and melody. The forces include five soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ.
Timed to provide a satisfying evening's music making in the 1880s, the music runs for just over 90 minutes. Hyperion have marketed the two CD set for the price of one.
The recording venue was a church in south London that I used to attend many years ago. Rarely have I heard choral singing so well caught on record. The soloists have fresh young voices. If veteran record collectors have a hazy recollection of having sampled this work before, it might derive from a stunning recording of an excerpt called "The night is calm" made by the Australian soprano Florence Austral.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting work - not sure if audiences would enjoy it today.Published 16 months ago by Bruce G. Murray
This unjustly neglected cantata by Sullivan finally has a complete recording worthy of its composer. Read morePublished on June 2, 2013 by Keith I.
"The Golden Legend" was so highly regarded during Sullivan's lifetime, that it became one of the most performed choral works, surpassing most other favorites of the time, including... Read morePublished on February 23, 2011 by G P Padillo
We have had to wait many, many years for this recording, but Hyperion has not disappointed. The performance is splendid and the music is as wonderful as one might have imagined. Read morePublished on November 26, 2002