MUSIC. The Academy 1878 July 13 new series 14(323): 49, col. 3 [unsigned review]

We have received from Messrs. Metzler and co. the vocal score of Mr. Arthur Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore. As compared with his previous effusions of the same character Trial by Jury and The Sorcerer the music presents but little divergence, and, indeed, in several instances we have the familiar numbers reset, and but slightly varied in the process. Thus, the Admiral's song, "When I was a lad," suggests at once the Judge's song in Trial by Jury; some of the themes in the finale to the first act are singularly like those in the corresponding portion of The Sorcerer; and, speaking generally, the resemblance is too distinct throughout to be unnoticed by all who have made acquaintance with the earlier works. To enter into serious criticism from the musician's point of view would be worse than useless. There are brightness, tunefulness, and abundance of melody of a weak description in H.M.S. Pinafore, and the pronounced features of opéra-bouffe of the French school are agreeably conspicuous by their absence. We readily grant that, if it were a matter of choice between La Grande Duchesse and H.M.S. Pinafore, we should prefer to listen to the latter. But this, after all, is but negative praise. This is not the place to speak of the literary merits of Mr. Gilbert's pieces, but it must be considered a matter for regret that one of our foremost English musicians should have subsided into a maker of tunes for burlesques. Better work than this is looked for from the composer of The Tempest music; and we cannot but hope that Mr. Sullivan, as soon as his health shall happily permit, will address himself to something more worthy of his great ability.

transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 13 November 2000
updated 18 March 2007