Edward Solomon & Sir Francis Burnand | Pickwick
George Grossmith | Cups & Saucers

The first great Dickens musical, full of catchy tunes and puns from the librettist of Cox and Box


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“A highly recommendable CD for lovers of Dickens and of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, superbly recorded and packaged”

Dan Adams | Light Music Society

“there’s no doubting the value of Retrospect’s work in bringing these Victorian rarities back to life, or the appetizing quality of their artwork, texts and accompanying essays”

Christopher Webber | Opera

The one-act operetta Pickwick, the first successful musical adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’s stories, has a delightful, fun-filled (and pun-filled) libretto by Sir Francis Burnand, the versatile writer who had teamed up with Sullivan before the latter established his more enduring partnership with W. S. Gilbert. The most famous incident in Pickwick Papers, the hilarious ‘misunderstanding’ between Mr Pickwick and Mrs Bardell, is brought to life in a series of sparkling songs and duets. The companion work, Cups and Saucers of 1876, was written, composed and performed by George Grossmith (1847-1912), best known for his origination of many of the Gilbert and Sullivan patter roles, but a talented composer and writer in his own right. It is a delicious little satire on the British obsession with Oriental china and may have helped inspire The Mikado.

We’ve now released our second recording, Solomon and Burnand’s charming operetta Pickwick. We were delighted to have the extraordinary Simon Butteriss take the role of Pickwick, with Gaynor Keeble singing Mrs Bardell, and Toby Stafford-Allen, the Baker. Our pianist was the superb Stephen Higgins. The CD includes the wickedly amusing Cups and Saucers, by George Grossmith, Gilbert and Sullivan’s brilliant and gifted comic baritone. This was written as a curtain-raiser, to whet the audience’s appetite for what was to come, and was very highly acclaimed.


It is no exaggeration to describe Pickwick as the first great Charles Dickens musical, though in its own day it was categorised as an operetta (and, for the scholarly minded, was officially titled a ‘dramatic cantata,’ following the Gilbert and Sullivan Trial by Jury). Musical versions of Dickens’s stories before Pickwick were little more than disjointed spoken plays with a handful of largely incidental songs. Pickwick, by contrast, was essentially conceived in sung music from start to finish, the most celebrated incident in Pickwick Papers, the hilarious misunderstanding between Mr Pickwick and Mrs Bardell, elaborated in a series of sparkling songs and duets. Pickwick was premiered at the Comedy Theatre, London, on 7 February 1889, where it ran for several weeks, getting excellent reviews. It boasted a superb cast, with Arthur Cecil as Pickwick, Lottie Venne as Mrs Bardell and Rutland Barrington as the Baker. Barrington later recalled that Pickwick ‘used to go splendidly’ and that Solomon was ‘absolutely brimming over with melodies that caught the ear at once.’ But the Baker? Who was he? There is a clue in Pickwick Papers, but you’ll have to listen to the operetta to discover the full extent of his ‘roll’ in the fateful misunderstanding!

It is doubtful whether any Dickensian musical theatre work has ever been created with more practical experience of the stage: by 1889, Burnand had written some ninety theatrical works, while Solomon had composed over twenty theatrical scores. Burnand claimed, with good reason, to be the father of the English operetta. He collaborated with Arthur Sullivan several years before W. S. Gilbert did, writing the text of Cox and Box (1866) for him. Solomon, for his part, was regularly compared with Sullivan, so the Burnand and Solomon partnership, which also produced several other works, can be legitimately considered a sort of alternative Gilbert and Sullivan. Pickwick, for its part, was immediately recognised as a work in the Cox and Box vein, so altogether this delightful little musical may be said to connect two of the great pillars of nineteenth-century British culture: Charles Dickens and the Savoy operettas.

(c) 2016, David Chandler

Edward Solomon

Edward Solomon was born in 1855 in London; he learned to play the piano from his father, a music hall pianist, conductor and composer.

He was an extremely busy musician, spotting opportunities, and composing where and when needed. He worked a good deal with Pot Stephens, producing a number of lightweight, popular theatre pieces, but worked with others too. Pickwick wasn’t the only piece he wrote with Burnand – they also wrote Domestic Economy and The Tiger, though this last one was not a success.

His first wife was 15 when they married (their daughter was born the same year), and he later married again, without going to the bother of divorcing his first wife. Once his second wife learned of the first, she divorced him; later so did his first wife, and he married a third time. He accumulated five wives in all, and several children.

Solomon packed a good deal into a short life – he died of typhoid fever in 1895, aged just 39. The Wikipedia article has much more to say about him.

Sir Francis Burnand

Sir Francis Cowley Burnand – usually known simply as F. C. Burnand – was born in London in 1836. He was a prolific playwright, and a leading contributor to the magazine Punch. Even in his teens, he was involved in the theatre, and was a founder member of the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (which still exists today). His family pressured him into joining the priesthood, where he blotted his copybook by leaving the Anglican church, and converting to Catholicism. Fortunately, his father bowed to the inevitable and gave him his blessing to leave a religious life behind and go into the theatre.  The Wikipedia article on Burnand is extensive and useful.

Solomon & Burnard | Pickwick

Music by Edward Solomon (1855-1895) | Libretto by F.C. Burnard (1836-1917)

Mr Pickwick | Simon Butteriss
Mrs Bardell | Gaynor Keeble
The Baker | Toby Stafford-Allen
Tommy | Alessandro MacKinnon

Musical direction from the piano | Stephen Higgins

1 | Prelude (Higgins)
2 | A Bardell Ballad (Keeble, Higgins)
3 | Mother! dear Mother! (Keeble, Butteriss, MacKinnon, Higgins)
4 | Packing up again (Keeble)
5 | My Next! (Keeble, Higgins)
6 | Baker-Roll (Keeble, Stafford-Allen, Higgins)
7 | Ho! Mrs Bardell (Keeble, Butteriss, Stafford-Allen, Higgins)
8 | Wenus of Widows (Keeble, Butteriss, Stafford-Allen, Higgins)
9 | The Pickwick Portmanteau (Butteriss, Higgins)
10 | The Boy and the Borough (Butteriss, Higgins)
11 | The Happy Valet (Butteriss, Higgins)
12 | That Baker’s very impetuous (Keeble, Butteriss)
13 | The Bachelor (Butteriss, Higgins)
14 | Yes if ever there were (Keeble, Butteriss)
15 | Stay! Mrs Bardell, prithee stay (Keeble, Butteriss, Higgins)
16 | Is it a fairy vision (Keeble, Higgins)
17 | You have but one boy only (Keeble, Butteriss, Higgins)
18 | The Bardell Bolero (Keeble, Butteriss, Higgins)
19 | Sammy will be fond (Keeble, Butteriss, Stafford-Allen, Higgins)
20 | Finale: Ah me! Ah me! (Keeble, Butteriss, Stafford-Allen, Higgins)

Grossmith | Cups and Saucers

Music and Libretto by George Grossmith (1847-1912)

General Deelah | Simon Butteriss
Mrs Worcester | Gaynor Keeble

Musical direction from the piano | Stephen Higgins

21 | Jane! Jane! (Keeble)
22 | My Little Saucer (Keeble, Higgins)
23 | Ah, my dear Mrs Worcester (Keeble, Butteriss)
24 | Foo Choo Chan (Keeble, Butteriss, Higgins)
25 | That is perfectly clear (Keeble, Butteriss)
26 | The “Farewell Song” (Butteriss, Higgins)
27 | I have lost her (Keeble, Butteriss)
28 | We’ll give up old China (Keeble, Butteriss, Higgins)

Pickwick Friends | 1 anonymous donor | Robert Dean | The Inchcape Foundation | The City Pickwick Club | Mr Pickwick Pubs of Switzerland | The Sir Arthur Sullivan Society | Allan Sutcliffe | Judith Waddicor (Life Member)

Pickwick Club Members | Geoffrey Burnand | William Burnand | Alison and Hugh Chandler | Roger Crowther | The Dickens Fellowship | The Dickens Fellowship of Japan | Piet de Jong | Øyvind Erik Jensen (Life Member) | Ryota Kanayama | Andrew Lamb (Life Member) | Deborah Pfuntner | Doreen Reynolds | Janet Snowman | Keith and Valerie Thomas | Trinity College, Cambridge | Roger Turner (Life Member) | John Tyrrell | Karen Walford | Carolyn Williams

Pickwick Sponsor | 2 anonymous donors | Kaori Ashizu | Stephen Banfield | The Haarlem Branch of the Dickens Fellowship | The Dickens Project, University of California, Santa Cruz | The Worcester, MA, Branch of the Dickens Fellowship | Pippa Jameson Evans | Jamie Findlay | Stephen Gill | Ann de Groot-May | Eiichi Hara | Dick Hill | Michael Hollington | Chizu Imai | Keiko Inokuma | John Jordan | Keiko Kiriyama | Dave Lownds | Robert van Mackelenberg | Iain Mackenzie-Humphreys | Nick Manzi | Yasuhiko Matsumoto | Mitsu Mitsuoka | Takashi Nakamura | Pickwicks Club, Frankfurt | Michael Rogers | Takao Saijo | Paul Schlicke | Michael Sharp | Peter Shaw | Keiko Shirakawa | Christopher Simons | Michael Slater | Tony Strangis | Cindy Sughrue | Masa-aki Tatsuki | Takashi Terauchi | Takeshi Tottori

Pickwick Supporters | 1 anonymous supporter | Malcolm Andrews | Annie Ashizu | Nick Barnard | Pat Bishop | Paul Blake | Philip Bolton | Gordon Bottomley | Helen Boyles | Denis Brewer | Jonathan Brewer | Richard Cappuccio | Janice Carlisle | Centro Internazionale di Studi Riccardo Zandonai | Vincent Daniels | Brian Daubney | Rachael Davenhill | The Sheffield Branch of the Dickens Fellowship | Keith Easley | Katsuhiro Engetsu | Chikako Fukuoka | Jennifer Garrett | Robin Gordon-Powell | Michael Goron | Richard Gravil | John Groves | Silvain Guignard | Anthony Harding | Paul Harvey and Harumi Takemura | Masayo Hasegawa | Sayaka Hashizume | Mio Hatada | Brian Hayashi | Chieko Ichikawa | Alysa Imae | Yuki Isaka | William James | Stephen Jarvis | Kathleen Jefferson | Olaf Jubin | Kiyotaka Kai | Nanako Konoshima Kanamori | Yukio Kaneko | Masae Kawatsu | Haruno Kayama | Kathryn Kimball | Arthur Kincaid | Hugh Kirby | Robert Knott | Ichiro Koguchi | James Brooks Kuykendall | Samantha Landau | Kevin Malone | Barbara Manning | Edward Marx | Derrick McClure | Michael McHugh | Nancy Metz | Tomomi Minamoto | Ken Nakagawa | Yui Nakatsuma | Marc Napolitano | Midori Niino | Sari Nishigaki | Chie Okamoto | Michael O’Shaughnessy | Judith Page | Frances Paul | Cecilia Powell | Kate Rhodes | Mark Richardson | Ann Ridler | David Rycroft | Nobuyoshi Saito | Toru Sasaki | Marc Shepherd | John Sheppard | Peter Shrubb | J. Donald Smith | Mariko Sugahara | Sae Takeuchi | Fumie Tamai | Takanobu Tanaka | Maureen Tarbuck | Joanna Taylor | Randall Terhune | Fiona Tomkinson | Yuichi Tsukada | Nobumitsu Ukai | Sozo Umemiya | Mark Waddicor | Tomoya Watanabe | Patricia Welch | John Wellington | Moira Whelan | Irene Wiltshire | Adrian Wright | Tae Yamamoto | Mika Yamauchi | Aya Yatsugi | Weifang Ye | Akemi Yoshida | Mai Yoshimura

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