By John J. Puccio
Sullivan wrote L’Ile Enchantee in 1861, and it was among his first orchestral compositions. He intended it as a divertissement, a light entertainment, a diversion, usually used during an interlude in a longer, more-serious work but here used at the end of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera La sonnambula at Covent Garden. The public received the music with acclaim, but the full score was subsequently lost. We may consider Penny’s recording, in which Roderick Spencer and Selwyn Tillett have found and restored some previously lost passages, a world-première event.
Accompanying L’Ile Enchantee are some snippets of ballet music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Thespis (1871), their first collaboration together. However, they never published the piece, and most of it is now lost, except for the fragments of ballet from it we get here.
Producer Murray Khouri made the album at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland in April 1992. Naxos originally released the disc in their full-priced Marco Polo line but now offer it at a substantially lower price (although if you insist on paying more, you can still find it new on the Marco Polo label). I liked the sound a lot. It’s among the more natural recordings I’ve heard lately, even though Naxos recorded it some thirty years ago (or perhaps because they recorded it so long ago). The recording displays good depth, with more than adequate dynamics and frequency range. And all without a hint of brightness or edge.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: