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Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)

Most people remember Sullivan as the composer who wrote a large number of comic operettas alongside William Schwenck Gilbert (W.S. Gilbert) - their names normally appear together as Gilbert and Sullivan. However, he wrote a great many "serious" compositions, and wanted to be remembered as a serious composer.

Arthur Sullivan was born on the 13th May, 1842 in London. He was the son of an Irish bandmaster. In 1854, he joined the Chapel Royal, in London, as a chorister, and four years' later started three years of study at the Leipzig Conservatory.

He wrote his first operetta, called Cox and Box, in 1867. The words were written by F.C. Burnaud. However, in 1871, he teamed up with Gilbert, who wrote the words to an operetta called Thespis. Although the operetta was considered a flop, and the score has subsequently been lost, the partnership became a very successful one.

In 1875, Richard D'Oyly Carte (the founder of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company) commissioned Gilbert and Sullivan to write an operetta together (with Gilbert providing the words and Sullivan providing the music) called Trial by Jury. It was an absolute success, and from then on, they collaborated on many successful and popular works - such as HMS Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879) and The Mikado (1985). In between writing these, he was also writing his more serious music, including an Oratorio called The Prodigal Son (1869), the ballad The Lost Chord (1877), the Cantata The Golden Legend (1886) and the opera Ivanhoe (1891). He also wrote the music for the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers", although this fact is less well known.

Sullivan was awarded a knighthood in 1883, and died on the 22nd November, 1900, following a heart attack. He is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Click here to hear the start of the overture to HMS Pinafore