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Review of a Performance at the Albert Hall from The Times
Friday, November 4, 1887.
 
ALBERT HALL

The first of the Albert Hall concerts conducted by Mr. Barnby was given last night and attracted a numerous audience. Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Golden Legend was the work selected for performance, a circumstance which sufficiently accounts for the number of persons assembled, and for the unflagging attention with which the music was listened to.

For the present, at least, Sir Arthur Sullivan’s cantata is not likely to lose the prominent place it holds on the English concert-platform, and upon the whole fully deserves to hold. For here grace of diction and flowing melody are combined with such original effects as the splendid peal of bells in the first scene and the conception of Lucifer as a contrapuntal fiend, discoursing learned music with sinister purpose. In addition to this it should be said that, with the exception always of its production at Leeds under the conductor’s personal guidance, the work has never been so well rendered as at the Albert Hall, and even with that original production last night’s performance need not in some respects shun comparison.

The Leeds Choir is, no doubt, vastly superior to that at the Albert Hall and every other in the United Kingdom as regards power and beauty of voices; but it has also the defects of its virtues, and being able to produce sonorous effects it sometimes forgets the intellectual qualities which go to the congenial interpretation of a composer’s intentions. It is in the latter respect that Mr. Barnby’s singers win an easy victory. The refinement of nuance, the gradations of strength, the neatness of phrasing which that conductor achieves with his chorus are remarkable things to witness, and were witnessed last night in some of the well-designed concerted numbers with which Sir. Arthur Sullivan’s score abounds.

The soli also were in able hands. Mdlle. Nordica, whose reputation both in opera and on concert platform is increasing rapidly, was Elsie, a part for which she bids fair to be in request whenever the services of Madame Albani, the original representative of the character, cannot readily be obtained. A sympathetic soprano voice, which responds to the singer’s command in all its registers, and an intelligent style of delivery are the qualifications which this artist brings to her task. Mr. Lloyd, as Prince Henry, was as excellent as ever, and Mr. Henschel brought out the humorous as well as the weird side of Lucifer with graphic distinctness. Madame Belle Cole, comparatively speaking a new singer, gave the contralto music to general satisfaction, and contributed her full share to the general success.

At the end of the first part of the concert a performance was given of Chopin’s Funeral March, as a tribute to the memory of the late Sir George Macfarren and Jenny Lind.


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