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A Thanksgiving for Victory
During the last few months of his life, Sullivan fulfilled a commission from the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral in London to compose a setting of the "Te Deum" to mark the end of the Boer War. It was Sullivan's last completed work. Sullivan did not live to hear its first public performance which took place in the cathedral on Sunday, 8th June 1902, a eight days after the official conclusion of the war.
The piece is scored for chorus, strings, brass and organ.
The Musical Times praised the work:
"In every page of the score we can trace the hand of the skilled musician, once a Chorister of the Chapel Royal. Moreover the work is impregnated with a robustness distinctly national in the directness of its diatonic expression. The introduction of the composer's familiar hymn tune 'Onward Christian Soldiers' — first in fragments and afterwards in its entirety — infuses a military element into this Thanksgiving Te Deum, the significance of which is obvious."
After describing how after the opening of the hymn tune has been heard in the introduction, the voices enter in "energetic unison", the article continues:
"An exceedingly impressive passage is the thrice-repeated 'Holy', sung softly by all the voices on the note middle C, the common chords of C major in the accompaniment heightening the beauty of the effect by this simple means. At the words 'The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee' the key is changed to A flat, the rhythm becomes triple, and the speed is accelerated — Allegro energico. This animated section is as melodious as it is invigorating, and like the whole composition, the music is exceedingly grateful to the singer.
"The part-writing broadens out into eight-part harmony at the words 'O Lord, save Thy people', and these dignified chords are almost entirely unaccompanied. Sullivan was a master of effect; he knew the value of simplicity not only as an element of contrast, but as a means of expression, and in these massive chords he has given full proof of his genius in this respect.
"Passing on to the final section of the work — from 'Vouchsafe, O Lord' onwards — the voice parts furnish a counterpoint to a canto fermo formed by the tune 'St. Gertrude', now given in extenso by the accompanying instruments. As may be assumed this is all very ingeniously worked out, and proves to be exceedingly effective and imposing withal."
We praise Thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
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