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Sir Arthur Sullivan on Monday Night’s Concert

Yesterday Sir Arthur Sullivan left Dublin by train at two o’clock.  Some time before his departure he was good enough to afford to a representative of the Freeman a brief opportunity of asking him a few questions as to his own impression of the performance of his works by the band and chorus of the Dublin Musical Society on Monday night, and as to one or two matters connected with music in general.  Sir Arthur very kindly laid aside some pressing business preliminary to his departure for the purpose of granting this interview.

Asked what he thought himself of the performance, his answer was — I was very much surprised and very much pleased.  The tone of the chorus was admirable.

Was the band satisfactory to you, Sir Arthur? 

On the whole very satisfactory indeed.  You labour here under the disadvantage of having no permanently organised orchestra.  Seventy or eighty players might every one of them be brilliant solo performers, and yet they would not form a good orchestra unless they constantly played together.  The band of the musical society were most willing and intelligent, and all were very attentive to my wishes, and the result was that I got some difficult accompaniments beautifully done.  On the whole the performance was a very good one indeed.  I was delighted at the enthusiastic reception given to myself.

In reply to a remark to the effect that Dublin audiences were excitable and enthusiastic, Sir Arthur said — I found the audience last night very like a first-rate English audience.

Are audiences so warm in the expression of their feelings in England? 

Oh yes; you should hear them at the Leeds Festival, for example, when some of my works are performed.  The London audience is cosmopolitan.

Have you written many orchestral symphonies? 

I have written a great many orchestral works, some of which are very well known.  I wrote a symphony when I was in Ireland thirty years ago.  I have written a great many overtures, which are very well known, and are performed all over the world.

Do you write chamber music? 

No, it does not appeal to me as the orchestra does.  My ideas always come to me with a certain orchestral colouring.  But I spent four years in Leipzig in early life, and heard the best music of every kind there, and the result is that I never think of a composer’s name, but only whether the music is good or bad of its kind.  Whether it be a quartette of Brahms, or an opera of Wagner, if the music be beautiful I accept it.  Camps in music are a mistake.

You have then a catholic taste in the sense of universality in what you admire? 

Yes, thoroughly catholic.   It would be very much better for young musicians if they had that disposition.  You frequently hear one person saying there is no good in anybody’s music but that of Brahms, and another saying there is no good in anyone but Wagner, whilst you find a third entirely devoted to the French school.  That is lamentable.  Sir Arthur added — I have been very much pleased by my visit here.

It is not your first visit?

It is my first professional visit.   I was here as a lad thirty years ago.

Your early musical education was a church education, Sir Arthur? 

Yes; and I believe it affords the best foundation a young musician can have.  He gets a solid training as regards harmony.

Were you acquainted with the late Sir Robt Stewart?  

Oh, yes; I think the last place I met him was at a Birmingham festival some years ago.

Did you ever hear him play the organ? 

No, but I heard of his playing.  I was told that he extemporised delightfully.  I have not myself written for the organ, except in connection with the orchestra, as in the "Martyr of Antioch."  The "In Memoriam" overture has an organ close.  I had a very eclectic instrumental training, having been brought up in connection with military bands; and I played all the instruments except the oboe and the bassoon.  I also played the viola.  I have written very little for the piano; it is an instrument that I don’t care to write for, although it is a very useful instrument.  I only care to write for the orchestra, the colouring of which I love.

Our representative then apologised for having trespassed so long upon Sir Arthur’s time, and, having thanked him for his courtesy, withdrew.


"Sir Arthur Sullivan on Monday Night’s Concert."  Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin), Wed. April 11, 1894, p. 8.


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