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Review of the first performance at the Crystal Palace from The Times
Monday, April 7, 1862
 
CRYSTAL PALACE CONCERTS

The concert on Saturday afternoon was one of more than ordinary interest, the programme being almost exclusively devoted to a new work by a young English (or Irish) composer, hitherto unknown to the public.

Mr. Arthur S. Sullivan, originally a pupil of Mr. Goss, in the Royal Academy of Music, was selected by the Committee of the Mendelssohn Testimonial Fund to be sent to Leipsic (sic) as “Mendelssohn Scholar.” At Leipsic he pursued his studies with Herr Hauptmann, whose worth is known to all professors. The music to Shakespeare’s Tempest is one of the fruits of his industry at Leipsic; and it was this that Herr Auguste Manns, with his accustomed spirit, brought forward on the present occasion. The concert-room was crowded to the doors, and a success was obtained by the young musician of which he, and those who first discerned the germs of talent in him, may well feel proud. So enthusiastic, indeed, were the audience that they insisted on no less than five pieces being repeated – viz, the song which Ariel sings in the ear of the sleeping Gonzalo (“While you here do snoring lie”); an orchestral interlude at the end of the third act; the duet between Juno and Ceres (“Honour, riches, marriage-blessing”); a dance of nymphs and reapers, at the end of the fourth act; and Ariel’s song, “Where the bee sucks.” The other well known passages of which Mr. Sullivan has availed himself are Ariel’s “Come unto these yellow sands,” and “Full fathom five thy father lies.”

There is also an orchestral prelude at the commencement of every act, and a grand overture at the beginning of the fourth, besides incidental music. As we understand that the work is to be performed again (and, indeed, after so great a success it would be strange if it were otherwise), we shall not pay Mr. Sullivan the ill compliment of judging him critically by a single hearing. Enough at present to say that his music to the Tempest, while betraying a strong partiality for Mendelssohn’s fascinating style, exhibits remarkable merits, and among the rest a decided vein of melody, a strong feeling of dramatic expression, and a happy fancy in the treatment of the orchestra.

It must be remembered, too, that in certain passages he has had the formidable task of coping with some of the most admirable English melodies; and, while we cannot hold out a hope that his version of “Where the bee sucks” will eventually put aside that of Dr. Arne, we must compliment him not only for the ingenuity with which he has avoided all resemblance to that faultless model, but for the graceful manner in which he has set the words anew. Of this, however, more on the next occasion.

Herr Manns deserves infinite credit for the almost irreproachable execution of the new music – an execution so refined and delicate as would have insured a favourable reception for even a work of far less pretensions. Miss Banks and Miss Robertine Henderson (the latter the best and most promising singer the Royal Academy has recently sent forth) deserve no less praise for their careful and highly-finished performance of the vocal solos, &c., – a remarkable example of which was the duet for Juno and Ceres, already named among the pieces that were encored.

The band, good throughout, shone most brilliantly in the “Dance of Nymphs and Reapers,” and in the overture to the fourth act. The Shakespearian text (that is, so much of it as Mr. Sullivan has included in his plan) was read as clearly and effectively as possible under the circumstances by Mr. A. Matthison. At the conclusion there was a loud call for “the composer,” who, being led forward by Herr Manns, was greeted with the heartiest applause from all sides.

After the Tempest a German singer, Herr Emil Scaria, was heard (for the first time) in the bass air from Die Zauberflöte, “In diesen heil’gen Hallen,” and Miss Robertine Henderson gave Herr Ernst Pauer’s “Gondoliera” in a charmingly fresh and unaffected manner.

On Good Friday (shilling day) there is to be a concert of sacred music, for which Mr. Sims Reeves is engaged.

NOTE: — The concert at which The Tempest music was repeated the following week does not appear to have been noticed in The Times.

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