Studies and Memories

  • C. V. Stanford


It may at once be conceded that if the years intervening since the production of the Tempest music in 1862 and the cantata of Kenilworth at the Birmingham Festival of 1864 had been obliterated from the composer’s musical life, the musical world would have welcomed the Golden Legend as a natural sequel and a genuine artistic advance upon his two admirable early works. But it is possible to go a considerable step farther, and to acknowledge it a work fully worthy of his maturity. The case is undoubtedly a peculiar one. After winning his spurs with ease by the production of these two cantatas, Sir Arthur Sullivan turned his attention principally to a class of composition which, if always showing in unmistakable clearness the stamp of the musician’s hand, was of a standard of art distinctly below the level of his abilities. If the world of music has to thank him for a purification of the operetta stage — no mean service in itself — it may still be permitted to regret that this much-needed reform was not carried out by a brain of smaller calibre and a hand less capable of higher work. Of the reasons which prompted such a decision it is outside the province of the contemporary critic to speak hastily or harshly. The most unbiassed judge would be the Mendelssohn Scholar of 1860 and the composer of the Golden Legend of 1886. It would, however, be only natural to expect that, after so many years spent in lighter work, some diminution would be apparent in the power of creating and sustaining a masterpiece of the high standard which the composer had so long left untouched.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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  • C. V. Stanford

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