Hyperion Records

Britannia 'A Nautical Overture', Op 52

'Victorian Concert Overtures' (CDH55088)
Victorian Concert Overtures
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55088  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Track 7 on CDH55088 [7'20] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Britannia 'A Nautical Overture', Op 52
Trained at the RAM, Alexander Mackenzie (1847–1935) had started life as an accomplished professional violinist but went on to become one of the most prolific and influential musicians in British musical life. It was possibly the orchestral connection that instilled in Elgar a lifelong affection and admiration for the older composer. Sitting in the last desk of first violins at the 1881 Worcester premiere of Mackenzie’s cantata The Bride, Elgar was overcome by its masterly orchestration and later wrote: ‘The coming of Mackenzie, then, was a real event. Here was a man fully equipped in every department of musical knowledge who had been a violinist in orchestras in Germany. It gave orchestral players a real lift’.

Mackenzie succeeded Macfarren as Principal of the RAM in 1881 and composed his ‘nautical overture’ Britannia for the festivities connected with the seventieth anniversary of that institution in 1894. It was given its first public London performance in May of the same year under Richter and soon became a regular feature of the Henry Wood Proms. The overture makes witty and ingenious use of the refrain to Arne’s famous tune and to certain melodic features of the hornpipe ‘Jack’s the Lad’, but is largely composed of three original themes, one of which (the trio-like second subject) is intended to reproduce the style of nautical song popularised by Dibdin. The whole piece is put together with the professional assurance so admired by Elgar and seems to look forward to the salty tang of Walton’s Portsmouth Point. Coincidentally, both overtures were inspired by the work of an English caricaturist—in this instance Cruikshank’s ‘Saturday Night at Sea’. It is the very epitome of the robust good health in which British orchestral music at last found itself in the final decade of Queen Victoria’s reign.

from notes by Hugh Priory © 1991

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDH55088 track 7
Recording date
8 June 1991
Recording venue
St Margaret's Church, Ilkley, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Christopher Palmer
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Victorian Concert Overtures (CDA66515)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: November 1991
    Deletion date: May 2002
    Superseded by CDH55088
  2. Victorian Concert Overtures (CDH55088)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: May 2002
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
   English   Français   Deutsch