|Sullivan > Major Works > Henry VIII > Times Review
Another novelty was the music composed by Mr. Arthur Sullivan for Henry VIII. Mr. Sullivan, as amateurs are aware, had already written incidental music for the Tempest and the Merchant of Venice, the first of which at once made his name familiar. Neither of its companions is so carefully wrought out as the Tempest though each possesses indisputable merit. In their instance, however, the musician had exclusively to deal with what the management selected to suit special performances at the Manchester Theatre; whereas in the Tempest, composed while a “Mendelssohn scholar” at the Leipsic Conservatory, he was at liberty to consult his own judgement and give the reins to his individual fancy.
There are excellent things, nevertheless, in Henry VIII., and while two or three scenes strongly suggestive of musical treatment are omitted, what has been done is extremely well done. Avoiding details, we may point to an air, with chorus, “Youth will needs have dalliance,” the quaint words which are traditionally assigned to Henry Tudor himself. In this, with its tuneful burden and characteristically limited orchestral accompaniment, the true spirit of old English melody is reflected. The solo voice part here was delivered by Mr. George Fox (of our Royal Academy) with so much force and good taste as to win for him an “encore,” of which no one was likely to complain. There are other noticeable things in Henry VIII., including an exquisitely graceful dance; but, as it stands, the whole is rather suited to the stage than to the concert room.
Mr. Sullivan should do with this and the other Shakespearian play what he did with the Tempest – complete it, as Mendelssohn completed a Midsummer Night’s Dream. We are much deceived if he is not quite equal to the task. The Tempest is enough to show it.
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