Classic CD

Before he ever encountered Gilbert, the young Sullivan, for a rather upper-crust amateur dramatic society, created a short Offenbachian operetta to a libretto by another well-known humorist, F C Burnand. This farcical tale of a twice-let room, Cox & Box, in Sullivan’s later orchestrated abridgement, has been more or less adopted into the canon and several times recorded. In 1984, however, it was reconstructed in its original version, and recorded under similar conditions to the original – in a Victorian drawing-room, with piano accompaniment (yes, a period piano!). This merry enterprise is now released on CD under Sullivan Society auspices, and very convincing it is – more so, in fact that, that the Savoy revision, orchestration notwithstanding. Sullivan’s music foreshadows the bounce of his best works, Burnand’s book displays a pleasantly Gilbertian energy and daftness, and the entirely professional performances are properly stylish, robust and outsize – especially Francke’s rascally Bouncer. With fine notes by G & S authority Berger, this is strongly recommended, not only for fanatical Savoyards, but anyone who enjoys this genre
. * * * * * (5 star award)

—Michael Scott Rohan