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I suppose there are more unlikely places to be performing and recording Lionel Monckton’s vivacious Edwardiana – Venezuela, maybe or Istanbul – but Estonia must rate pretty high amongst them. That Tallinn boasts a repertory company so attuned to Monckton seems down largely to one man, conductor and baritone Mart Sander, whose role as impresario has paid off quite handsomely in this release. Monckton has fared poorly on disc over the last few decades (though HMV had his music in their catalogues before the First World War and Gertie Millar was a well-known exponent on disc) and highlights selections or orchestral translations are the most many will have heard of him. Cingalee and The Quaker Girl are, in any case, less well known than The Arcadians, which has at least surfaced in abridged form on disc before.

All three stage comedies are presented as selections. Numbers follow each other without spoken dialogue; sometimes, Beechamesquely, Sander has interpolated choruses or songs from one Act to another. As with the bold Bart’s Handelian reorganisation the judgement is invariably astute and the selections are unjoltingly cleverly constructed. The Cingalee had a very respectable run at Daly’s Theatre in the West End but the Ceylonese tea planter’s theme was not a big draw on Broadway where it flopped. Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan haunt the delightful song Pearl of SweetCeylon and there’s plenty of pep in the ensemble sextet In the Island of Gay Ceylon. When it comes to The Arcadians’ song My Motter Sander proves a dab hand at Estonian Cockney and at playing the lush and Mariliina von Uexküll proves to have a fine, flexible voice with operatic-soubrettish quality (good coloratura as well) as she copes neatly with her tongue-twisting song Pipes of Pan – not easy to do even if your first language is English. There are plenty of opportunities for character singing and acting here and the orchestra has a good supportive opportunity in Arcady is Ever Young. The Quaker Girl was a hit in London and New York in 1910 and 1911 – maybe the saving grace American diplomat (with the improbable name of Tony Chute) who sweeps the heroine off to the New World had something to do with it. There are moments of farce (French milliners) and hymnal purity in the village (the austere Quakers) and also some more frolicsome music for the less buttoned up villagers.

The principals and band prove worthy ambassadors for this music, much of which they have excavated on disc for the first time. Not all the singers’ English is idiomatic – there’s a rather Germanic tenor and the contralto sounds more Michigan than Mayfair – but it’s all enjoyable, welcoming stuff nevertheless. The libretti are printed, helpfully, in different colours. So next time you’re tempted to throw a stag night in “Europe’s New Prague” I recommend popping in to the Theatre Bel-Etage instead. You might even find Mart Sander there, twirling his cane.

—Jonathan Woolf