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Arthur Sullivan - Embankment Gardens, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.553 W 000° 07.210
30U E 699837 N 5710386
Quick Description: Sir Arthur Sullivan was successful during the late nineteenth century as a popular composer of music ranging from symphony to hymn, and including chamber music and grand opera.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 7/15/2011 3:23:06 AM
Waymark Code: WMC1NW
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
Views: 5

Long Description:
This is a bust of Arthur Sullivan mounted atop a plinth of Portland stone. The bust is made from bronze. Against the plinth is draped a life size female dancer also cast from bronze. To the left of the dancer, on the plinth base, there is a musical instrument, a stage mask and a music manuscript all cast in bronze.


Sullivan was born of an Italian mother and an Irish father in Lambeth, Surrey (now South London) in 1842. His father was a clarinettist in the royal Surrey Theatre but soon became Master of the Band at the Royal Military School College, Sandhurst, and later still Professor of Brass Band at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, Twickenham, Middlesex.

Sullivan entered the Chapel Royal in 1854 on the recommendation of Sir George Smart and stayed there until 1858 when he went to Leipzig to study, being the first holder of the Mendelssohn Scholarship.

In Leipzig he studied under Hauptmann, Rietz, David, Moscheles and Plaidy. He remained there till 1861 when, steeped in the German musical tradition, yet having developed his own personal style, he returned to England with the score of his recently completed incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest. It was performed in 1862 at a Crystal Palace concert under August Manns and was soon repeated in Manchester.

In 1864 Sullivan composed his ballet L'Ile enchantee for Covent Garden and became organist there soon after. Here he received first hand experience of opera which was at that time under the direction of Sir Michael Costa. Costa suggested to the Birmingham Festival committee of 1864 that they commission a work from Sullivan. The result was a setting of H.F. Chorley's Kenilworth. In the same year Sullivan composed music for Chorley's opera The Sapphire Necklace, which was, however, never produced.

At this time Sullivan became a firm friend of George Grove. In 1864 he completed his Symphony in E (The Irish) and in 1866 he was made a professor of the Royal Academy of Music. On the death of his father in the same year he wrote his overture In Memoriam for the Norwich Festival.

Sullivan's first Scott-inspired work appeared in 1867, the unpublished concert overture Marmion. In the same year Sullivan travelled to Vienna with George Grove and they both unearthed a number of lost Schubert manuscripts inculding the incidental music to Rosemunde. Schubert's music remained a potent influence on Sullivan throughout his life. It is felt strongly in his songs (for example, Orpheus with his lute), in his use of modulation and contruction of melodies.

Sullivan's first comic opera also appeared in the 1867. This was Cox and Box, based on Maddison Morton's farce Box and Cox, by the editor of Punch F.C. Burnand. It was performed privately at first and was later taken up by the German Reeds at the Gallery of Illustration. Its overture shows the influence of Offenbach while the lullaby ("Hush-a-bye, bacon") is in the style of a popular ballad of the day. In the extended musical description in which Cox tells of his faked suicide, Sullivan shows his skill as an orchestrator in the effective musical description of the sea crashing against cliffs. As a first essay in the form, Cox and Box is an extremely able and effective work.

Sullivan's first oratorio The Prodigal Son was performed at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival in 1869 and was given a great reception.

Sulliva 's first collaboration with W.S. Gilbert was performed as the Christmas novelty at the Gaiety Theatre in 1871. Thespis, or the Gods grown old was a resounding success, its run continuing longer than was normal for a Christmas piece. The music was lost sometime after. All that was preserved were the libretto (in a faulty edition) and the song "Little Maid of Arcadee". The chorus "Climbing over rocky mountain" was reused in The Pirates of Penzance so can be reconstructed. The ballet music was rebuilt from fragments and other workls in the 1980s.

Sullivan's second oratorio The Light of the World appeared in the Birmingham Festival in 1873. It was just as popular as The Prodigal Son.

Two years later, Sullivan's second collaboration with Gilbert, Trial by Jury, was performed at the Royalty Theatre. It was an afterpiece to Offenbach's La Perichole but proved even more popular than the main work. The following year a synidicate was formed for the express purpose of producing new operas by Gilbert and Sullivan. The first result was the production of The Sorcerer which was, amongst other things, a parody of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore.

HMS Pinafore, which followed in 1878, was a parody of the popular Victorian nautical piece which had its origins in the time of Shakespeare. (HMS Pinafore even contains a quotation from The Tempest: "What Cheer? what cheer?"). Gilbert and Sullivan had managed to anglicize the style of Offenbach, and raise the "tone" to one which was felt to be respectable enough for the whole family to visit the theatre.

After the success of HMS Pinafore, Gilbert stayed in a nautical vein and wrote The Pirates of Penzance in 1880. In the same year Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on an oratorio The Martyr of Antioch for the Leeds Festival. This a much more interesting work than either of its predesessors.

The next comic opera, Patience, was a satire on the aesthetic excesses of the day, and on Oscar Wilde in particular. During the run it transferred to Richard D'Oyly Carte's new theatre, the Savoy. This was an attempt to give the Gilbert and Sullivan operas a permanent home, and to build an upper and middle class audience for them.

Three nights after the last performance of Patience, Iolanthe had its first performance. Six months later Sullivan was knighted. His bid to rise from a bandmaster's son to a successful wealthy composer who mixed with royalty had paid off.

Iolanthe was a fairy opera, and the music contained many references to Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream style, while the Fairy Queen was a satire on Wagner. It ran for more than a year and was followed by Princess Ida.

Princess Ida is Gilbert and Sullivan's most "operatic" opera in style (Yeomen is the more serious however). It has two clear parallels with Ivanhoe: it is based on a work (in this case a poem) by a prominent English writer (here, Tennyson); and it has a third act which features the storming of a castle.

As if to compensate for the relative failure of Ida, the next comic opera, The Mikado, proved their most enduringly popular and was first staged in 1885. This reflected the contemporary interest in thing Japanese, manifested by the Japanes Village in Knightsbridge.

In the same year, Sullivan became chief conductor of the Philharmonic Society and in the following year he composed his most popular choral work The Golden Legend. Performed at the Leeds Festival, and with Clara Butt in the line-up of soloists, the work achieved an immense success, equal in Victorian affections to Messiah, The Creation and Elijah. The work consists many dramatic moments and the drama is emphasized by the the presence, in the score, of "stage directions" taken from Longfellow's original poem. Musically, the work shows the influence of Liszt and Dvorak.

When ,eventually, The Mikado finished its long run at the Savoy, it was succeeded by Ruddigore. It is a parody of the type of melodrama popular on the Victorian stage for the previous 30 years or more. The Ghost Scene (as well as containing a minor key reference to Sullivan's hymn-tune "St Gerturde") is clearly in a similar, though toned-down, style to the Prologue of The Golden Legend.

In 1888 the most serious of all the comic operas made its appearance: The Yeomen of the Guard. In this work Sullivan uses Wagner's leitmotiv technique which he subsequently developed further in Ivanhoe. It is the only opera which has the potential for a tragic ending and musical characterization is more powerful than any of the other operas.

The next opera, The Gondoliers, makred a return to the more sunny pattern and received a Royal Command Performance before the Queen at Windsor Castle. Sullivan's position as a leading composer of comic opera was confirmed in its respectability. Its most intersting musical feature in this context is the opening scene which is a through-composed twenty minute structure.

Ivanhoe itself followed two years later in 1891. In the following year Gilbert and Sullivan, whose personal realtions had been strained by many years of conflict, produced their penultimate collaboration. Utopia Ltd is a satire on England, its society, morals bureaucracy, Royal Family, and traditions.

Their last work followed in 1896: The Grand Duke. This returned to an idea used in Thespis a quarter of a century before, that of a troupe of actors trying to play the roles of real people, and the havoc which ensues.

Sullivan composed two furhter complete comic operas, neither of which had any real success. He was in the middle of another, The Emerald Isle, when he died in 1900. It was completed after his death by the young Edward German. Sullivan was buried in Westminster Abbey on 27th November 1900.

For several years after his death his serious work, which he had always tried to regard as his most important and lasting, remained popular. The Great War and the huge social turmoil which followed ensured a decline in the popularity of these works and after 1945 performances became rare indeed. By contrast, his comic operas remained popular both in professional productions by the D'Oyly Carte Companies and in amateur performances. Their popularity is hardly diminished to this day.

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