|Sullivan > Major Works > 1866 > In Memoriam Overture
Mr. Arthur S. Sullivan’s new overture, “In Memoriam,” composed for and received with extraordinary favour at the recent Norwich Festival, was just as successful at the Crystal Palace. The absence of the organ, which at Norwich proved so effective, was scarcely felt, so rich and brilliant, independently of that unaccustomed adjunct, is the instrumentation. This overture, besides being a tribute of affection that does honour to the heart of the young musician, is highly creditable to him as a composer. It shows decided progress, even when viewed in comparison with his last important work – the symphony in E minor (sic). The grave and solemn opening is singularly impressive; the allegro into which it leads, though in parts, perhaps, a little diffuse, is, from first to last, alive with interest; and the coda already mentioned forms one of the most jubilant and imposing of climaxes.
The execution of “In Memoriam” was in all respects superior to that at Norwich, not so much because Herr Manns is a better conductor than Mr. Sullivan, or that the orchestra directed by Herr Manns is a better orchestra than that which Mr. Benedict usually provides for the Norwich Festival, as because Herr Manns has rehearsals ad libitum at command, and consequently is never compelled to bring forward a new work until he and the nucleus of his Saturday orchestra have become thoroughly acquainted with it. The reception was really enthusiastic, and a loud and unanimous call being raised for the composer, after some delay he came forward, and was cheered heartily from all sides. This is another step in advance for Mr. Sullivan, whose progress will be watched with more and more interest. At the same time, the shadow of Mendelssohn still seems to stand in the way of Mr. Sullivan. There are, however, many doors to the Temple of Fame, and one of them should be carefully chosen near which that fascinating ghost is not to be seen hovering.
The vocal music at this concert was very good. Mdlle. Drasdil, the German contralto, with a fine voice that needs no forcing sang “Verdi prati,” from Handel’s opera Alcina, and Mr. Sullivan’s plaintive and charming setting of Shakespeare’s song, “A poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree” – which last, with deference to the composer, we should prefer with the original pianoforte accompaniment.
Tuesday, April 7, 1868
Not the least, interesting feature of the programme (which opened with Weber’s overture to Oberon) was the overture composed for and first produced at the Norwich Festival of 1866 by Mr. Arthur S. Sullivan, and which bears the title of “In Memoriam.” No composition of recent years has done more honour to the English school of music than this thoughtful, poetical, and entirely original work, which at each new hearing discloses new beauties. For the first time at the Crystal Palace, owing to the newly erected instrument now a permanent feature of the orchestra, there was an opportunity to supply the organ part, as originally designed by Mr. Sullivan, which confers additional solemnity upon the impressive and exciting coda.
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