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Though G&S have influenced and helped start musical theatre, I'd still consider them part of classical, they reflect romanticism in their work and have everything an opera from the other composers would have. The only arguments against the idea that they can be considered classical that I can think of are that they have spoken sections and that they popularised speak-singing.

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A very good question... G&S certainly deserve credit for bringing orchestration and original composition to the variety hall and hence musical theatre. However, classical and romantic music are specific forms that have their own generally accepted 'rules' of musical composition, style, performance and instrumentation.

Purists will point out that G&S tended to bend and break the rules of composition as their purpose was not to be (classical) composers, but entertainers offering political satire and spectacle in a more grandiose, bombastic fashion. Their audiences would have composed of literate and illiterate people and they would recognise that a good tune with lyrics relating to the everyday are fairly easy to engage with and remember.

It might seem somewhat pompous, but rules help to set boundaries for e.g. recognising forms, comparing and contrasting, structured learning development and also helps to identify when forms are blended, subverted, invented etc. The problem comes when some start getting possessive about keeping the forms 'pure'. Jazz is a good example of where rules are important (think of the difference in bebop and swing), but all jazz musicians are commanded to flout the rules because surprise, invention and creativity, especially in improvisation are among the most desirable qualities of a good jazzer!

In other words, music in G&S works can be viewed mainly as a way to serve the story line and entertain in a music-hall fashion. Their music is easily identified as written in a 'classical' vein as elements of e.g. orchestration and sonata form are easily identified. However, that also highlights when their work differs according to the rules of a particular musical form such as classical or romantic.

But of course, they were entrepreneurs with an eye on the profits!

I hope this helps!

G.

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    What rules of musical composition did Sullivan break? – phoog Jul 3 '20 at 8:36
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    I‘ve read he was criticized for applying open parallels of fifths. – Albrecht Hügli Jul 3 '20 at 14:11
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You mean that they consider Sullivan's work for the commercial theatre less respectable than Mozart's, Verdi's etc? (We're not talking about Baroque/Classical/Romantic etc. categorisation I imagine?) I don't know. You'll have to ask them.

Perhaps because they were English. The music hall song in which the protagonist 'changed his name from Bloggs to Bloggini' because 'I want to sing in opera!' had a strong element of truth. This journalist, arguing their case, sums it up as "...maybe they're too English, too funny and too popular."

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/its-time-to-reassess-gilbert-and-sullivan-2078399.html

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Because the classical era ended around 1820-ish, depends on where you want to make the cut off. He was part of the Romantic era and his instrumental works - outside of the musicals - are in that style.

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    I would have said "classical period" if I meant it. I'm talking about classical music in general. Sadly there's not a good term for it, western art music would exclude American composers who are important to 20th century classical. – ettolrach Jul 1 '20 at 14:50
  • @TheSheepGuy, then the question is probably better phrased as "why isn't he considered a serious composer?" or "why aren't his instrumental work held in higher regard?" The label just confuses the issue. – Michael Curtis Jul 1 '20 at 20:56
  • The term classical has been so stressed and strained that it should be specified when used in a discussion. I understood it in the context of OP formulation not as „classical era“ and neither as „classical form“ like other answers assume. It must be the break out of the „classical society“ of upper class and snobs that was the reason for the criticizers like Peter Gammon – Albrecht Hügli Jul 3 '20 at 13:04
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Why do some people not recognise Gilbert & Sullivan as part of classical music?

Because there are no objective criteria to define whether some music is classical and other music is not. And because such „down-voters“ are often criticizers and experts that aren’t able to write a short piece of music in the style of) the composer they disqualify - (or any music at all).

Edited and added:

When Sullivan turned to comic opera with Gilbert, the serious critics began to express disapproval. The music critic Peter Gammond writes of "misapprehensions and prejudices, delivered to our door by the Victorian firm Musical Snobs Ltd. ... frivolity and high spirits were sincerely seen as elements that could not be exhibited by anyone who was to be admitted to the sanctified society of Art."[273] As early as 1877 The London Figaro commented that Sullivan "wilfully throws his opportunity away. ... He possesses all the natural ability to have given us an English opera, and, instead, he affords us a little more-or-less excellent fooling."[274] Few critics denied the excellence of Sullivan's theatre scores. The Theatre commented, "Iolanthe sustains Dr. Sullivan's reputation as the most spontaneous, fertile, and scholarly composer of comic opera this country has ever produced."[275][n 34] Comic opera, no matter how skilfully crafted, was viewed as an intrinsically lower form of art than oratorio. The Athenaeum's review of The Martyr of Antioch declared: "[I]t is an advantage to have the composer of H.M.S. Pinafore occupying himself with a worthier form of art."[278]

Many who are able to appreciate classical music regret that Sir Arthur Sullivan did not aim consistently at higher things, that he set himself to rival Offenbach and Lecocq instead of competing on a level of high seriousness with such musicians as Sir Hubert Parry and Professor Stanford. If he had followed this path, he might have enrolled his name among the great composers of all time. ...

and note 36:

Many who are able to appreciate classical music regret that Sir Arthur Sullivan did not aim consistently at higher things, that he set himself to rival Offenbach and Lecocq instead of competing on a level of high seriousness with such musicians as Sir Hubert Parry and Professor Stanford. If he had followed this path, he might have enrolled his name among the great composers of all time. ...

source: wikipedia

Short: he was too popular and not snob enough.

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  • This seems to be a comment instead of an answer. – guidot Jul 2 '20 at 9:17
  • Does it make any difference if I begin the sentence with „because“ ? – Albrecht Hügli Jul 2 '20 at 17:13
  • ... it seems that some down voters aren‘t able to read the question. – Albrecht Hügli Jul 3 '20 at 12:21
  • Strikes me as a good answer. – Peter Jul 4 '20 at 11:18

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