|Sullivan > Major Works > The Golden Legend > Albert Hall 1887
A large audience, unwearied to the end in its demonstrations of approval, testified to the undiminished attractiveness of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Leeds cantata The Golden Legend, the second performance of which took place at the Albert Hall last night. It was on this occasion coupled with another of the Leeds novelties, Mr. C. Villiers Stanford’s choral ode “The Revenge,” in itself a little masterpiece and likely to have a long and prosperous career before it. Of both works, and of the rendering of the former by Mr. Barnby’s choir, sufficient has been said in The Times.
Last night’s performance of The Golden Legend differed, however, in two material points from that which had preceded it in the same place. Instead of Sir Arthur Sullivan Mr. Barnby conducted, and Mr. Henschel took the part of Lucifer for the first time.
The first-named change was not as important as might be supposed. As a leader of choral masses Mr. Barnby has not his equal, certainly not his superior, in London, and his singers are accustomed to follow his beat with almost automatic precision. Having had ample opportunity of ascertaining the composer’s own conception of his work, it was therefore an easy thing for Mr. Barnby to obtain a performance quite as perfect as that previously witnessed at the Albert Hall, and realizing Sir Arthur Sullivan’s intentions in every detail. As a specially fine feature, where all was good, we may single out the opening chorus with its fantastic effect of the clangour of bells and of human voices mingling together in one weird turmoil of sound. This beautiful and grandly-designed piece affords a glimpse of the composer’s power not, it must be owned, quite realized by anything that follows in The Golden Legend, much less by his previous works.
Of Mr. Henschel’s part in the performance it is possible to speak in very favourable terms. His voice, powerful rather than sympathetic, is well adapted to the sinister expression one expects from the tempter of mankind, and it tells admirably in the heavy ensembles in which it has to take part. Mr. Henschel also possesses a certain sense of humour so inseparable from the modern idea of the fiend, be his name Mephistopheles or Lucifer, and the character appeared almost in a novel and, we have no doubt, in the true light in his hands. Madame Albani and Mr. Lloyd repeated successes already too familiar to require further comment, and Miss Hope Glenn was more than equal to the contralto music.
Mr. Stanford conducted his own ballad, and with the splendid materials at command secured a performance as highly appreciated as it was worthy of appreciation, and for the first time giving metropolitan amateurs an idea of the effect produced by the work at Leeds.
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