Penguin Guide To Compact Discs

This lively and enjoyable performance re-creates the original version of Cox and Box, first heard at a private gathering at the librettist Burnand’s own house in May 1866, with Sullivan himself improvising at the piano. The orchestration came a year later for the work’s première at the Adelphi Theatre, and the Overture and the duet Stay, Bouncer, Stay were also added subsequently. The present account (based on a professional production for London Chamber Opera) is spirited and polished, and its considerable length (over an hour) serves to demonstrate the reasons for Sullivan’s own shortened version in 1894. It was further truncated in 1921 to produce the concise version which remained in the D’Oyly Carte Company’s repertoire until the late 1970s. However, the performance on the present disc is most enjoyable and does not outstay its welcome. Donald Francke is a splendidly rumbustious Bouncer. The charming original compound-time version of the Bacon Lullaby is considerably different from the song known in the revised score. Stay, Bouncer, Stay is added in for good measure. Of course, one misses the orchestra, but the piano accompaniment, using a suitable period instrument, is well managed. The words are admirably clear, a consideration which would surely have been just as important to Burnand as to Gilbert. It is good to see that the production is dedicated to the memory of the late Arthur Jacobs, biographer of Sullivan, at whose insistence this recording (sponsored by the Sullivan Society) was issued commercially.

—Edward Greenfield