World premiere of lost music

Dr David Russell Hulme

Dr David Russell Hulme

05 March 2014

Thanks to the research of Dr David Russell Hulme, Director of Music and Reader at Aberystwyth University, BBC Radio 2 is set to broadcast the world premiere of a lost song by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Friday Night is Music Night, which is hugely popular all over the world, presents a Gilbert and Sullivan evening on Friday 7 March, featuring several songs reconstructed from incomplete material by Dr Hulme, widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on Sullivan’s manuscripts.

The premiere is of a ballad for the principal contralto in The Sorcerer. It was cut just before the first performance in 1877 in a tightening-up operation and has never been heard in public.

The words survived but the musical material was discarded, believed lost until an incomplete set of orchestral parts surfaced recently. From these Dr Hulme reconstructed a complete orchestral score and voice part.

“Reconstruction of this kind is not about composing a tune in the right style that fits nicely with the surviving bits and pieces” commented Dr Hulme.

“It’s about picking up on hints and clues, thinking laterally about the implications not just of the notes present but of notes omitted. It’s rather like forensic facial reconstruction from skeletal remains.

“This ballad from The Sorcerer is a modest piece but charming, nonetheless. I’m confident I have recreated it with enough accuracy to call it Sullivan’s composition, rather than my own!”

Dr Hulme specializes in reconstructive work of this type by other composers as well Sullivan. His highly-praised work has been widely performed, recorded and broadcast. A reconstruction of a song for the Duke in Patience, now often re-instated in productions, will also be included in the programme, along with a song from The Yeomen of the Guard, ‘corrected’ by Dr Hulme from faulty scores.

Dr Hulme is also being interviewed for the programme’s interval talk and will be available to listen to on this website after the programme:   

Dr Hulme was appointed Director of Music at Aberystwyth University in 1992. In demand as a conductor, his schedule has taken him to major venues throughout Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada, with appearances as far-flung as the Royal Canada Opera, Christchurch Festival (New Zealand) and Buxton International G&S Festival.

Described in Opera as a ‘leading authority on Sullivan’s manuscripts’, he has been closely involved in productions by leading opera companies including Welsh National Opera, English National Opera, New Sadler’s Wells and D’Oyly Carte, as well as others in America and Australia.