'A Source of Innocent Merriment in an Object all Sublime': A Critical Appraisal of the Choral Works of Sir Arthur Sullivan.


This thesis seeks to give a full assessment of a surprisingly and much neglected area of academic research - the Choral music of Sir Arthur Sullivan - over a period of 36 years from Kenilworth (1864) to the setting of the Te Deum (1900), written during the Boar War and the year of his death. Although not extensive, the list of Sullivan's choral music reveals that he was not only drawn to the idiom of choral music but that he exercised no less of his creative imagination in their gestation and performance than he did in his more famous and exalted theatrical works. Indeed, the list exhibits an impressive variety of sub-genres ranging from the masque, the Te Deum, the oratorio and the sacred drama to the dramatic cantata. Here the originality and coherence of these works are assessed analytically and critically within the context of the development of Sullivan's career (with particular emphasis on his conductorship of the Leeds Triennial Festival) and the composer's style. In addition the works are studied in conjunction with an appraisal of Sullivan's own particular brand of eclecticism, his creative approach to choral forms, and his instinctive empathy with the stage in which we see an individual melange of Teutonic influences (of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and, later, early Wagner), those of the French (namely Offenbach and Gounod) and Italian theatres (Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi), not to mention the impact of English dramatic music and of Sullivan's own Savoy operas. Indeed, one of the central elements of the thesis examines the very aesthetic nature of the choral works within the perspective of Sullivan's dramatic predilections and, notwithstanding the self-evident differences between choral music and opera, to what extent his choral music crossed the boundaries of these dissimilar idioms. Finally, the choral works are also considered within the controversial and complex context of Sullivan's own reception among his peers and critics, and how his role as an 'outsider' and as a composer who 'squandered his talents' affected the perception of his 'serious' works within a choral world dominated by Teutonic symphonic values

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Durham e-Theses

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