Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore: Conductor Richard Egarr and Jeremy Nicholas Discuss the Authentic Way to Perform G&S

By Egarr, Richard; Nicholas, Jeremy | Gramophone, June 2016 | Go to article overview

Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore: Conductor Richard Egarr and Jeremy Nicholas Discuss the Authentic Way to Perform G&S


Egarr, Richard, Nicholas, Jeremy, Gramophone


'There is so much we can learn from listening to old piano recordings--Carl Reinecke, Saint-Saens, A Cortot, Rachmaninov. It's something I encourage all my students to do.' This is how Richard Egarr enthusiastically begins our conversation. Hang on! We're supposed to be talking about his new Linn recording of HMS Pinaforel Well, as Egarr makes clear during the interview, old recordings are by no means as irrelevant to the project as you might think.

HMS Pinafore, or The Lass that Loved a Sailor, was Gilbert and Sullivan's fourth collaboration, though neither Thespis, Trial by Jury or The Sorcerer approached the wild success of this, their first international hit. It opened at the Opera Comique theatre just off the Strand on May 25, 1878, and enjoyed an initial run of 571 performances before its numerous subsequent West End revivals. Who has not at some point seen a production of Pinafore or taken part in one? Numbers like 'I'm called Little Buttercup', T am the Captain of the Pinafore', 'When I was a lad I served a term' and 'He is an Englishman!' are part of the fabric.

On the surface it may seem surprising that its latest incarnation on disc should be directed by a man more usually associated with the world of early music or his role as a renowned harpsichordist. Richard Egarr demurs. This most amiable and articulate of conductors has an omnivorous musical diet. 'People who know me know that I have very broad musical tastes. Now I haven't done any G&S since I was at school but when you come down to it, it is fantastic theatre. It is exceptionally well-crafted with a fabulous text, in the same way as Purcell's The Fairy Queen or King Arthur.'

The idea for doing Pinafore came as a result of Egarr having recorded Bach's St John Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music (a recording shortlisted for a Gramophone Award in 2014). Over a meal after the sessions, Egarr, producer Philip Hobbs and AMM's administrator Andrew Moore agreed that the Passion's soloists, who included Elizabeth Watts, James Gilchrist and Christopher Purves, would 'make a perfect G&S cast'. When Moore moved to become Artistic Administrator of the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 and wanted to do G&S with Scottish Opera, he knew who to ask. 'When we started casting,' says Egarr, 'we used a lot of people who had been in the St John Passion and a lot of early-music people who I had enjoyed working with in the past.' I ask if any of them had sung G&S before? Egarr isn't exactly sure. 'I suspect so. Being a very English cast, I suspect most of them had.' Had he conducted any G&S before? 'No. No!'

We have before us the full score in the sumptuous 2003 edition published by Broude Brothers. It comes with a similarly weighty Commentary volume. I suspect that most people would be as astonished as me to discover in the latter's 200 pages the teeming number of textual and musical changes made to the operetta over the years in different editions. (All the spoken dialogue in the new recording, by the way, has been replaced by a narration, Tim Brooke-Taylor reprising his role in a 2005 BBC Prom with Sir Charles Mackerras.)

How did Egarr go about preparing for the recording? 'One of the first things I do is to get hold of all the recordings I can--there are some very early recordings of G&S, two from 1907, for instance. I was very keen to encourage the Scottish Opera Orchestra strings to basically slide around as much as possible and apply the aesthetics of rubato which were prevalent at the end of the 19th century, even in the Overture. Look at the oboe solo at bar 52 [marked Andante] which I wanted to be flexible, rather than rigid as it so often is in modern performances. Incidentally, there is a general performance tradition these days of playing those kind of accompanimental quavers under the oboe quite short and detached--and that's not the way it should be done. It should be more on the string. Even something as mundane as the opening canon shot [bar 4]. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore: Conductor Richard Egarr and Jeremy Nicholas Discuss the Authentic Way to Perform G&S
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.