|About this Recording
8.660270-71 - GERMAN, E.: Tom Jones [Operetta] (Staykov, Morrison, Shipp, National Festival Orchestra, Hulme)
Edward German (1862–1936)
Comic Opera in Three Acts
Sophia, Squire Western’s daughter - Marianne Hellgren Staykov, Soprano
National Festival Orchestra and Chorus
Act I: The lawn at Squire Western’s
Act II: The Inn at Upton
Act III: Ranelagh Gardens
Additional Musical Numbers
Edward German was the second of five children born to John and Elizabeth Jones of Whitchurch, Shropshire. Christened German Edward Jones, he was known as “Jim” within the family—and it was certainly a musical family. John Jones, a brewer, was organist and lay preacher at the Congregational Chapel and Elizabeth (“Betsy”) also had musical gifts. Jim showed an early aptitude for music and all kinds of entertainment, writing amusing poems, dressing up and devising plays and acting in them. Often the children would organise concerts of songs and sketches in which Jim took a leading part. His vivacious and mischievous youthful personality certainly contrasts with the retiring, quiet nature that characterized him in later life.
In his teenage years the young German developed considerable skill as a pianist and also as a violinist, although he was largely a self-taught one. Music had become a passion with the boy but John and Elizabeth Jones planned a more secure career for their son. However, when they took him to be interviewed for an apprenticeship at Laird’s Shipbuilders in Birkenhead, he turned out to be too old. What should they do now? A local teacher and choirmaster, Cecil Walter Hay of Shrewsbury, took matters in hand. He had been taking an interest in the young man’s musical progress for some time and persuaded German’s parents to allow him to prepare their son for entry to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he duly enrolled in the autumn of 1880 to study organ and violin. The violin soon became his principal instrument, but increasingly his interest focused on composition. In 1884 he was appointed sub-professor of the violin, and it was about this time that he changed his name to the now familiar form, apparently to avoid confusion with another student named Edward Jones. In 1884 he was also runner-up for the Lucas Composition Medal. Characteristically German rose to every challenge and the following year he won the coveted medal for a setting of the Te Deum for soloists, choir and organ.
As a composer German’s ambitions extended to writing a symphony, publicly performed by the Academy Orchestra in 1887 and enthusiastically received. In lighter vein he composed a miniature operetta (modestly requiring only four soloists and a piano) for the Academy’s opera class. The Two Poets (later renamed The Rival Poets) was performed at the Academy, and then taken on tour around Shropshire by German and a group of friends—a useful preparation for his later career in the theatre!
German left the Academy in 1887 with a reputation as an excellent violinist and also as a promising composer. His ambition was to become a composer of serious orchestral music. Knowing the difficulties of earning a living by composition alone, however, he took a part-time post as music teacher at Wimbledon School, while also playing the violin in orchestras at various London theatres, including the Savoy, home of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He continued to compose and early works included songs and piano pieces. In 1888 a chance meeting changed German’s life.
The American actor-manager Richard Mansfield had asked Alberto Randegger to look out for a musical director for his forthcoming season at the Globe Theatre. Randegger met German on the Academy steps and asked if he was interested. He was and soon the job was his. Within a very short time he transformed the musical standards of the Globe’s 29-piece orchestra, receiving the most favourable press comments for his efforts. Mansfield commissioned German to write incidental music for his 1889 production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. It was a major task. Besides entr’actes and music to cover scene-changes, he also provided music to accompany the drama itself. He accomplished his task superbly well and German’s music for the production received considerable critical acclaim. The overture, in particular, was much admired and, reaching the concert halls, it began to establish German’s reputation beyond the theatre. Other similar theatrical commissions followed, notably for Henry Irving’s 1892 production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. The Three Dances from this became hugely popular, with over 30,000 copies sold in the first year alone.
Commissions from other leading actor-managers followed and German became one of the most sought after composers for the London stage play. He wrote music for Shakespearean productions, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet (recorded on Marco Polo 8.223419), as well as plays by contemporary dramatists, including Henry Arthur Jones’s The Tempter and Anthony Hope’s English Nell, from which the immensely popular Nell Gwyn Dances (on Marco Polo 8.223419) were taken.
German had revised his first symphony for performance at the Crystal Palace in 1890, where his Gipsy Suite (on Marco Polo 8.223419) was also performed in 1892. Other larger works, including a second symphony (The Norwich, 1893) (on Marco Polo 8.223726), the ‘Leeds’ Suite (1895) (the Valse Gracieuse movement is on Marco Polo 8.223726), the tone-poem Hamlet (1897) and The Seasons (1899) (on Marco Polo 8.223695), followed, establishing German as a leading British composer for the orchestra.
On 22 November 1900 Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) died, leaving the operetta The Emerald Isle (libretto by Basil Hood) uncompleted. Richard D’Oyly Carte of the Savoy Theatre approached German to complete the score. (Years before Sullivan had said that German was the only man of genius who could follow him.). The result (it opened on 27 April 1901 for 205 performances) earned high praise from the critics. On the first night it was German’s Song of the Devonshire Men that received the most rapturous encore.
Hopes for another Hood and German operetta were fulfilled. German’s best-known work, Merrie England, opened at the Savoy Theatre on 2 April 1902, running for 120 performances. It went on to tour the provinces before returning to London. The critics were positive but could not foresee how the nation would take the piece to its heart. The magical score included the well-loved Yeomen of England, The English Rose, O peaceful England and a superb fifteen-minute Act I Finale.
Another German/Hood operetta followed. A Princess of Kensington opened at the Savoy Theatre 22 January 1903, and ran for 115 performances. Pleasant but not as musically memorable as Merrie England, it suffered from a plot that is contrived and over-complicated—even for an operetta!
The impresario Robert Courtneidge (1859–1939), reading Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel Tom Jones, realised its potential as a subject for an operetta, and the 200th anniversary of Fielding’s birth was approaching in 1907. Author Alexander Thompson and lyricist Charles Taylor were brought in to collaborate on the libretto and German was commissioned to write the music. Tom Jones had its première at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester on 30 March 1907, and moved to London to begin a successful run at the Apollo Theatre on 17 April.
Besides popular songs, other compositions of this period included the orchestral March Rhapsody (1902) and Welsh Rhapsody (1904), The Just So Songs (1903), which set twelve poems from Kipling’s Just So Stories, and music for a short-run play by the Duchess of Sutherland, The Conqueror (1905). Then, in December 1908, W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911) wrote to German proposing a fairy-tale opera based on his play The Wicked World. The idea had been rejected by Sullivan many years before and other composers since, partly on account of its need for a ladies-only chorus. Great mutual respect ensured good progress. German found himself caught up, however, in difficulties between Gilbert and the actor-manager H. C. Workman and his financiers. There were also criticisms of Gilbert’s leading lady, his protégée Nancy McIntosh. This placed German in a difficult position. Fallen Fairies ran from 15 December 1909 for 51 performances before being taken off, to fall into almost total oblivion. The whole experience was distressing for German and put him off ever writing for the stage again. Indeed, thereafter he wrote little at all apart from two late orchestral works, Theme and Six Diversions (1919) and The Willow Song (1922). He was fearful of not matching previous standards and felt out of tune with modern musical trends—Schoenberg, Stravinsky and other progressive composers on the one hand and popular jazz on the other.
From 1886 to 1921 German lived in a charming house with an enclosed garden in Hall Road, Maida Vale, a short walk from Lord’s cricket ground where he was a keen follower of the game. He loved the theatre, walking, cycling and fishing but lived quietly, and was known affectionately by his musical friends as ‘The Hermit of Maida Vale’—although he was much more sociable than this implies! In particular, a warm friendship developed between Edward German and Edward Elgar. Their lives had several parallels. They shared many interests and were great admirers of each other’s music, which show numerous stylistic similarities, particularly in their earlier works. As Elgar’s reputation as a serious composer grew after 1900, so German’s declined in favour of his lighter music, something that greatly disappointed him, as it had Sullivan before.
German never married but letters went regularly between him and his sisters Mabel and especially Rachel, who championed his music and, like him, would look out for it in the wireless schedules after the BBC started broadcasting in 1922. Rachel would even write to the BBC under a pseudonym asking for more! From 1916 onwards German made gramophone recordings of a number of his works and was much in demand as a conductor of his own music. He also devoted a good deal of energy to revising and arranging his music. A highly respected figure in British music, he was held in the highest regard by his fellow musicians both personally and professionally. German was knighted in 1928 and awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal in 1934. In later years he became a champion of the Performing Rights Society, keenly supporting its aim of securing proper reward for composers when their music was performed live, broadcast or recorded. After 1927 his eyesight deteriorated and he became increasingly frail. He died from prostate cancer on 11 November 1936. His ashes rest in Whitchurch cemetery, a mile outside the town amidst the countryside he so loved.
Recently several fine recordings of German’s orchestral works have become available. Of the operettas, however, only Merrie England has previously been issued in anything approaching complete form. This recording of Tom Jones therefore fills a gap. Listening to it, the appeal of German’s melodies, with their warmth and charm, is immediate. German always maintained that his lighter works needed just as much time and care as his serious works and his fine craftsmanship marks every bar of the music, dramatically effective and distinguished by enchanting subtleties of harmony and masterly orchestration. It is hoped that this recording will bring pleasure and perhaps also reawaken interest in the lovely English operettas from the early years of the twentieth century that have become eclipsed by the modern musical.
When he was knighted German received many letters from distinguished musicians, but it is one from an unknown admirer that sums up the appeal he has had for many:
Edward German may be best-known for the operetta Merrie England, but for many, Tom Jones is his masterpiece. The writer and critic Neville Cardus recalled his first encounter with the work:
The time was April 1907 and the theatre the Prince’s in Manchester, where Tom Jones had opened on 30 March for a two-week ‘try-out’ before moving to London. Robert Courtneidge, who was producer as well as co-author with Alexander Thompson, had engaged a first-rate cast. Hayden Coffin and Ruth Vincent, two of the most charismatic and fine-voiced operetta stars of the day, played Tom and Sophia, with Carrie Moore as Honour and leading comedian Dan Rolyat as Partridge. Courtneidge’s daughter, Cicely, made her professional début in the minor rôle of Rosie Lucas, and an excellent orchestra was directed by German’s friend Hamish McCunn.
Audiences and critics welcomed Tom Jones enthusiastically. Drawn from Fielding’s brilliant novel, the libretto begins with an advantage. Although using only a fraction of the lengthy original, it traces a lovestory through three acts with assurance. The erotic temperature and earthiness of the novel were reduced for Edwardian audiences; yet the adaptation, if somewhat wordy and mannered for modern taste, has vigour and strong characterisation. Charles Taylor’s lyrics are well-turned and genuinely amusing in the patter-songs (Gurt-Uncle Jan Tappit cleverly adding west-country inflections to the verbal gymnastics), though they are let down a little by an over-fondness for Latin tags and apocryphal characters introduced simply to aid metre or rhyme; and, as German’s biographer Brian Rees comments, “a certain coyness prevails”.
The genius of Tom Jones, however, is in its music. With each act it evokes time and locale with uncanny subtlety, as Cardus noted:
He might have added, too, the languorous Barcarolle and the two waltzes: Honour’s song of The Green Ribbon, in which her old world still echoes distantly, and Sophia’s For to-night, unmistakably a song of opulence and the city.
Famous for his ‘olde English’ manner, German’s Henry VIII and Nell Gwyn dances, and other pieces in his distinctive pseudo-archaic style—a species of musical mock-Tudor, became enormously popular. Undoubtedly Merrie England was conceived as a vehicle for such writing. So, to some extent, was Tom Jones. The Act III Morris Dance and Gavotte (surely a model for the Ascot Gavotte in My Fair Lady), as well as the Jig, are obvious essays in this manner. The lyrics certainly included plenty of fal la las, derry-downs, etc. to encourage German in that direction.
Tom Jones, however, offers much more than oldworld pastiche. The composer’s approach was ambitious. He wanted to write something more musically developed, essentially more operatic, than the usual contemporary musical theatre pieces. The way had been paved in Merrie England, whose first-act finale has a soaring Romantic quality distinctly new in British light opera. Tom Jones has two impressive finales from the same operatic mould, as well as extended opening sequences for each act and several instances of numbers following on without dialogue breaks. The chorus is used extensively and imaginatively. The orchestra, too, is very important. Its colours and nuances are at the core of the work’s remarkably unified musical personality.
With German widely regarded as Sullivan’s successor in British light opera, we inevitably look for influences. In Tom Jones they are evident in the pattersongs; and the pseudo-madrigal, Here’s a paradox for lovers is clearly related to those in The Mikado and elsewhere. Yet what is remarkable about German’s operettas written after The Emerald Isle is how largely unlike Sullivan they are. There is nothing Sullivanesque about the big finales, or indeed German’s ‘Olde English’ manner, and the Romantic sweep of ballads such as If love’s content and To-day my spinet adds a new dimension to British light opera. The orchestral sound-worlds are also very different. Both composers were masters of the orchestra; but Sullivan’s approach was essentially classical, whereas German relished the Romantic sonorities of tenor-register counter-melodies, rich octaves in the strings, decorative woodwind and delicate brass pointing.
In London Tom Jones was still drawing good houses at the Apollo when it closed after 110 performances. It could have run longer but Courtneidge had booked a provincial tour featuring most of the West-end cast. (A planned return to London never happened.) Meanwhile, as the tour began, Courtneidge, Thompson and German sailed aboard the Lusitaniato supervise a production at New York’s Astor Theatre. Opening on 11 November, Tom Jones was again enthusiastically received.
After the early productions, the work virtually disappeared from the professional stage. (Talk of a production in Germany came to nothing.) Kurt Ganzle, in The British Musical Theatre, comments how “in any other country it would have been taken permanently into the repertoire of the national opera or operetta theatre”. Nevertheless, despite professional neglect, the work became popular with amateur companies and continues to be staged occasionally by them. In 1913 German published a concert version. This also became popular for a time and is still sometimes performed. (It was used for the work’s first BBC broadcast in 1930.)
During its early days, Tom Jones underwent considerable revision. Originally there was no orchestral Introduction, for example, and several celebrated numbers were late additions. Both Dream o’ Day Jill and As all the maids were introduced at the 100th London performance and A Soldier’s Scarlet Coat was added for the provincial tour—lyricist Charles Taylor had died by then (aged only 47) and so Harry Beswick provided the excellent lyric. Other numbers were cut and some can be found in the two issues of the vocal score that preceded the final ‘Revised Performing Edition’—an elaborate ensemble, The Beggarman, is one.
German’s autograph full score reveals much about the work’s evolution, and shows extensive revisions to the orchestration. (The effective harp part was an addition, probably for London.) When the composer came to supervise production of new (printed) orchestral parts in the 1920s, the musical text was reasonably settled. Nevertheless, these are not without errors and inconsistencies. What is more, German tinkered endlessly with his music: several archive scores of Tom Jones carry his hand-written (occasionally contradictory) alterations to rhythm, pitch, tempi, performance instructions, and other matter. The performing material used for this recording was newly prepared from the array of sources, taking into account alternative readings and very occasionally favouring earlier versions, as with the opening of the Act III Barcarolle, where solo voices, as first written, are preferred to the semi-chorus later adopted.
The dialogue (copyright until 2019) is omitted from the recording but three numbers discarded during the original production (and fortunately surviving in full score) have been included. Tom’s A Foundling Boy (printed in the first vocal score, then revised) has a darkness that sits uncomfortably with the rest of the work. Sophia’s By night and day, however, has such intensity and Romantic breadth that it is no surprise German included it in his concert version of Tom Jones, altering it slightly for its reappearance. The recording follows the original theatrical working for this and for Come away with me my deary, also revised for the concert version. This delightful trio is an enchanting distillation of the magic of Edward German.
David Russell Hulme
Act I: The lawn at Squire Western’s
Squire Western is giving a hunting dinner in honour of Tom Jones. Tom, an orphan adopted as a baby by Mr Allworthy, saved the life of the Squire’s daughter, Sophia. The ladies enjoy the latest gossip while the men’s thoughts are full of the recent hunt , but Tom, now a popular and handsome young man, is missing. Squire Western entertains the waiting guests with the tale of two maids and a cuckoo who is not all he seems . When Tom arrives he is heartily toasted. He responds with a song  celebrating his love of the chase—of ladies as well as foxes.
Squire Western has arranged for Sophia to marry Allworthy’s nephew and heir, the surly Blifil. Sophia, who heartily dislikes the unpopular Blifil, pleads with her father but he is determined. Secretly Sophia and Tom have fallen in love. She yearns for him—and yet, when they are apart does he think of her, as she thinks of him ? Her maid, Honour, takes a message to Tom, who arrives and declares all his time and life are Sophia’s . Latin wisdom may say “festina lente” (‘hasten slowly’) but for lovers time will fly (‘tempus fugit’) all too quickly .
Squire Western’s meddling sister finds Tom alone with Honour and accuses them of ‘carrying on’ together. The fuss is heard by the servants, including Gregory, a country lad who has taken a not unwelcomed fancy to Honour. Misunderstandings are set aside, however, and Gregory looks ahead to married life with Honour, running a roadside inn—and to the prospect of endless ale .
Blifil, determined to make trouble, accuses Tom of meeting a lady in secret. The lady was Sophia, but Honour takes the blame to save her mistress’s reputation. Sophia, Honour, Tom and Allworthy muse on the treacherous course of true love in breaking hearts and mending them .
Sophia rejects Blifil outright, but the Squire is resolute. In the Finale , Tom and Sophia declare their love. Blifil stumbles on them. Furious, he commands Tom to release the lady’s hand. Crowds gather, a quarrel ensues and Tom knocks Blifil down. Sophia pleads with her father to be lenient—not only did he save her life, she loves him so! The Squire is outraged at the revelation. Tom declares his love for Sophia and, despite his lowly position, asks for her hand. The gentry are shocked. Allworthy disowns Tom for ever and the Squire orders Sophia, the “ungrateful hussy”, to quit his sight.
Act II: The Inn at Upton
The London coach is due. The landlady (Hostess) is busily preparing, but cannot stop an army officer from enjoying a song . Sophia and Honour have run away to London. Blifil and Squire Western arrive at the inn in pursuit of them. There they meet Benjamin Partridge, village barber, quack-doctor and, indeed, a person of many parts , who, it transpires, knows the Squire. Also, he reveals, he knows something of orphan Tom’s birth.
Unseen by their pursuers, Sophia and Honour arrive. They are on the way to join Lady Bellaston, Sophia’s cousin, in London. Fed up with their wildgoose chase, Honour puts it to Sophia that one man is the same as another and she might just as well marry Blifil as Tom. But Sophia dislikes Blifil so much, she would rather take the first man who came along, like ‘Dream o’ Day Jill’.
Gregory, enjoying his stay at the Inn, takes little persuading to sing about his old Uncle Jan Tappit , a colourful Somerset character remarkably like himself. The ale flows and a lively jig follows  but is interrupted by news that Lady Bellaston’s coach has been attacked by highwaymen . Lady Bellaston arrives—and with Tom, who had fortuitously rescued her. She has fallen for her handsome saviour and Tom has difficulty fending off her advances. Partridge proceeds to tell Tom how he knew him as a baby. Honour, realising Partridge’s acquaintance with Squire Western may lead to trouble, flirts with the susceptible barber . Partridge points out to Honour and Gregory that Squire Western, Sophia and Tom are all at the inn, yet all unknown to each other—a decidedly humorous situation .
Tom, a little drunk, begins to appreciate the attractions of the soldier’s life . Sophia, believing he has left her for Lady Bellaston, laments her loss . Blifil announces to Squire Western that his daughter is found. “Where be my daughter?”, he demands . Not realising the trouble he will cause, Partridge points to a room—but the occupant turns out to be Lady Bellaston, claiming Tom is hers and that Sophia has left him. As for Tom, he decides to have done with women and enlists in the army. Then Sophia’s muff is discovered. Tom, realising she had been at the inn, determines to follow her to London and accepts Lady Bellaston’s offer of a seat in her coach.
Act III: Ranelagh Gardens
At London’s Ranelagh Gardens, a dancer entertains — a taste of bucolic revelry before the fashionable gavotte begins . Partridge has told Squire Western that Tom is the son of Allworthy’s sister. As elder brother to the disagreeable Blifil, who knew Tom’s real identity all along, he is thus the heir to the family fortune. The Squire has arrived to find Sophia has already joined Lady Bellaston, under whose wing she has become a great social success. Honour is also gaining attention from some of the wealthy gentlemen. Asked what she will give in exchange for a gift, she remembers the country girl who gave her heart for a simple green ribbon .
Alone, Tom pours out his heart . As people return, the evening’s lazy opulence is captured in a barcarolle . Sophia arrives. Troubled thoughts prey on her mind. For to-night, though, she is determined to enjoy herself as queen of the ball . Sophia meets Tom but her suspicion that he is involved with Lady Bellaston drives them apart again. Gregory and Honour’s romance is not going smoothly either. Partridge does not help by trying to put Gregory off marriage. To begin with, there’s the expense—but Honour reckons the old sayings (“wise old saws”) got it right .
Fortunately Sophia overhears Tom telling Lady Bellaston there never was and never can be anything between them. The couple forgive each other’s mistrust (dialogue over ). All obstacles removed, Squire Western gives his blessing to their marriage and all ends happily .
Additional Musical Numbers
In A Foundling Boy  Tom, alone with Lady Bellaston in Act II, reveals something of his history. Sophia’s By Night and Day  tells how Tom is always in her thoughts. It appeared in Act II before this was altered to incorporate Dream o’ Day Jill. In the Act III trio, Come away with me , Tom tries to persuade Sophia to return to Somerset.
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