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The Martyr of Antioch


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THE MARTYR OF ANTIOCH further reading




Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

Written by W S Gilbert

Composed by Arthur Sullivan


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    Vocal score of The Martyr of Antioch divided into seven parts
    in a new edition courtesy of Paul Howarth and the
    Gilbert & Sullivan Archive.


      Part One

      Part Two

      Part Three

      Part Four

      Part Five

      Part Six

      Part Seven


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    Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players

    In common with Sullivan’s other choral sacred and secular works, The Martyr of Antioch (first performed on 15th October 1880) continued to maintain a place in the repertoire of choral societies throughout the English speaking world well into the 20th century. Post World War I however, Sullivan came to be regarded by many as ‘old hat’ and passé. It took many years of gentle persuasion from the likes of Stanford Robinson, Sir Charles Mackerras, The Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, et al, but very gradually from the late 1960’s onwards there was a gradual shift once again and today many of Sullivan’s non-Gilbert works have started to appear on compact disc, and also in live performance.

    Of Sullivan’s sacred and secular choral works, Martyr is unusual for two reasons. Firstly, although the text is taken from an existing poem by Dean Millman, W. S. Gilbert worked with Sullivan on a couple of passages to render the blank verse in which the original was written, into rhyming verse to aid setting to music.

    Secondly, during the 1890’s the Carl Rosa Opera Company staged Martyr and toured the piece as an opera. This is represented in the published vocal score by the inclusion of an appendix which is designated as being the ‘Finale as Performed on the Stage’.

    The choral and orchestral parts we destroyed in the fire at Chappell’s warehouse in 1964, but a new set has been prepared from Sullivan’s autograph manuscript and is now available from the Sullivan Society library. This set was used for the performance at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Buxton in 2000, and it was at a rehearsal for that performance that this recording was made.

    It has to be said that this recording is far from ideal - not from the point of view of the quality of the performance - but the level of the recording is very low and there is a need to increase volume. It also feels as if the chorus are set too far back at times.

    That said, the whole enterprise under the baton of Richard Balcombe is beautifully and sensitively performed and does show just what an accomplished work this is. Certainly in his music for the heathen scenes, notably in Julia’s ‘Io Pean’, superbly sung by Gillian Knight, and in the chorus ‘Lord of the golden day’, the composer catches the feel of the middle east. The beautiful, delicate orchestration of the duet ‘My own, my loved’ for Margarita (Catherine Foster) and Callias (Gareth Jones), is really beautifully played.

    Stephen Brown as Olybius has a beautiful, ringing, tenor voice and he makes the most of another of the scores best known numbers, ‘Come, Margarita, come’.

     Stephen Godward gives a very moving rendition of Fabius’ ‘Brother, thou slumberest’. But for me one of the undoubted highlights is the ‘Evening Song’ sung by the heathen maidens at the commencement of scene 3, ‘Come away with willing feet’, which seems to foreshadow Saida’s music in Act 2 of The Beauty Stone some 18 years later.

    The Northern Chamber Orchestra are on top form and give a very sensitive rendition of one of Sullivan’s most unjustly neglected scores. The amateur chorus, drawn from willing volunteers attending the festival, aquit themselves splendidly.

    The recording runs to a full 78’ 41’ and is available on the Symposium label - catalogue number 1289.

      To hear the opening chorus ‘Lord of the golden day’.

      The Evening Song of the Maidens 
    ‘Come away with willing feet’ .

      ‘Io Pean’