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Trial by Jury Polka

Sample scores from our collection:

Trial by Jury Polka (on airs from Arthur Sullivan’s operetta)

by Charles d’Albert.

Cover for 'Trial by Jury Polka' scores
Charles d’Albert was a prolific composer who, like many other composers during the second half of the  nineteenth century, based some of his dance music on popular operas or ballets. Some examples of such pieces are found among the first batch of material digitised for the What’s the Score at the Bodleian? project (visit our Recordings page for some samples).

Among the works that have inspired d’Albert is Trial by Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Trial by Jury is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced on 25 March 1875, at London’s Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit, receiving critical praise and outrunning its popular companion piece, Jacques Offenbach’s La Périchole. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and legal system are the objects of lighthearted satire.  (Wikipedia Accessed 6 Sep 2011)

d’Albert wrote a series of dances based on the opera, and the Polka is one. It did not receive a particularly favourable reception by The Argus (Melbourne), which reviews it under its ‘Music Received’ heading on 31 August 1876 (page 5) :

The ‘ Trial by Jury Polka” is from the veteran hand of Charles D’Albert (Chappell and Co., New Bond-Street), a lively enough fragment but not equal in effect to ‘The Trial by Jury Lancers,’ which we noticed recently in these columns. The name of Charles D’Albert gives rise to higher expectations than are satisfied by this production. (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5900731)

What the quote shows, other than that the reviewer wasn’t particularly impressed,  is that other works by d’Albert were known and appreciated in Australia at that time. It is also interesting to note how quickly dance music based on stage hits was produced and exported. The Trial by Jury Polka scores had reached Australia within 18 months of the original opera opening in London, and then it had still been preceded by other titles, like The Trial by Jury Lancers.

In his article Dance arrangements from the Savoy Operas, John Sands notes that although popular in its time, many of the pieces like Trial by Jury Polka are little known today.

These attractive pieces are virtually unknown today, whilst comparable dances based on the operettas of Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) are highly regarded and regularly performed. The difference, of course, is that Strauss was responsible for arranging many such pieces himself whilst the names of Sullivan’s arrangers are little more than footnotes in Victorian musical history. (Dance arrangements from the Savoy Operas by John Sands. Accessed 6 Sept 2011)

Many more pieces by d’Albert were published, and some of them are being digitised and made available through our What’s the Score at the Bodlian? project. A list of d’Albert music can be found in Universal Handbook of Musical Literature (on pages 128-132)  available online at The Open Library.

logo: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence In this recording of Trial by Jury Polka, created for the What’s the Score at the Bodleian? project, we hear Ben Sheen on the piano. The recording is released with the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence. It can be reused and redistributed globally provided that it is used in a non-commercial way and the reuse is attributed to “What’s the Score at the Bodleian?” and Ben Sheen. If you derive a new work from the recording, the new work may be distributed provided it is released under the same licence.

You can read about the recording session when this and other pieces were recorded in our ‘So that’s what they sound like…’ blog post. More project recordings and scores are available on the project webpage.

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