The thrust of Martin Yates's fine talk last night was to compare the distinct 'sound worlds' of both THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD and PRINCESS IDA.
Each, in his view, achieves this distinction from other Savoy Operas through the use of conscious individual musical techniques.
In the case of YEOMEN, the Overture was used to show how short melodic and rhythmic motifs subtly announce the characters to come. The rise and fall of notes (the fifth and fourth particularly) are developed throughout the score. We were all hearing the music as if for the first time!
Even more strongly, in his second-half exploration of PRINCESS IDA, Martin shows how Sullivan adopts a more musicallly academic approach that cleverly reflects the college setting. Much contrapuntal fun is evident, especially (for example) in 'This helmet, I suppose' where the Handelian sturdy bass line is at the forefront. Similarly, the Baroque mannerism of sequence was neatly expressed in numerous examples (e.g. Cyril : 'Cursed with an appetite keen I am').
None of this close examination undermined the quality and enjoyment of these timelessly tuneful Sullivan scores. Martin provided many stylish examples from the piano, in a 'lecture' that held our attention throughout.