Definitely not Gilbert & Sullivan
“The Lost Chord”, a song by Sir Arthur Sullivan, setting to music a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter. In this 1939 recording, the song is performed by British tenor Webster Booth.
The song was immediately popular on its publication in 1877, and was memorably performed by Italian tenor Enrico Caruso at a benefit concert for the families of the victims of the Titanic sinking at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 29 April 1912.
The song is also performed movingly in the Mike Leigh film “Topsy Turvy”, focusing on the famous and often fraught partnership between Arthur Sullivan and his librettist WS Gilbert.
Almost achingly Victorian in style, The Lost Chord has more than a shade of morbidity to it, together with that 19th century greater ease and familiarity with death and loss, which 140 years of medical advances have incrementally, thankfully, deprived us.
The Lost Chord
Seated one day at the organ, I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wander’d idly over the noisy keys;
I knew not what I was playing, or what I was dreaming then,
But I struck one chord of music like the sound of a great Amen.
It flooded the crimson twilight like the close of an angel’s psalm,
And it lay on my fever’d spirit with a touch of infinite calm.
It quieted pain and sorrow like love overcoming strife,
It seem’d the harmonious echo from our discordant life.
It link’d all perplexèd meanings into one perfect peace
And trembled away into silence as if it were loth to cease;
I have sought, but I seek it vainly, that one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ and enter’d into mine.
It may be that Death’s bright angel will speak in that chord again;
It may be that only in Heav’n I shall hear that grand Amen!
Image: Gilbert and Sullivan Archive
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It is very pleasant to hear Webster Booth’s excellent recording of “The Lost Chord” featured in yesterday’s “Music of the Day”.
Many thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed it. “The Lost Chord” is a piece I come back to every other year or so, and this particular recording is one of my favourites.