Overture in C, "In Memoriam"

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The Overture in C, "In Memoriam", by Arthur Sullivan, premiered on 30 October 1866 at the Norwich Festival, in honour of his father, who died just before composition began. The piece was written early in Sullivan's career, before he began to work with his famous collaborator, W. S. Gilbert, on their series of Savoy Operas. It was first published by Novello almost twenty years later, in 1885.

In late 1864, Sullivan received commissions to write overtures for the Philharmonic Society of London and the Norwich Festival, respectively. The first was to be based on Sir Walter Scott's poem Marmion, but the second had no theme assigned. Inspiration for the Norwich Festival commission came with the sudden death of Sullivan's father in September, 1866. Sullivan turned his grief to the completion of this overture. The Overture in C, "In Memoriam," was probably inspired, also, by the poem In Memoriam, which Alfred, Lord Tennyson had written in memory of Arthur Hallam, a close friend of Tennyson's and also his sister's fiancé.

Sullivan's overture enjoyed considerable popularity in the composer's own lifetime, but it is rarely heard today.

The piece's dark, slow texture nevertheless has its main theme in the major key, as seen here in its first appearance in Myles B. Foster's piano reduction:


This theme reaches its final, grandest restatement in the last section of the overture.

Only two recordings were made prior to 1992. Since that time, the piece has been recorded four more times.

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