Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Parry: Blest Pair of Sirens & I was glad

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Parry: Blest Pair of Sirens & I was glad


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Felicity Palmer (mezzo-soprano), Arthur Davies (tenor), Gwynne Howell (bass)

Parry:

Blest Pair of Sirens

I was glad


In The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar succeeded in writing a religious choral work that fell firmly outside the established genres of either the oratorio or the cantata, and unusually the text itself was not biblical either. The score simply states ‘set to music’ and that is exactly what it is: Cardinal Newman’s poem about the journey of a man’s soul to judgement and Purgatory, set to the music of Elgar. The composer himself knew that in this work he had created something very special indeed. On the manuscript score, he quoted Ruskin: ‘This is the best of me… this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.’ It was written ‘from my insidest inside’, he confided to a friend, and to another he wrote that ‘you will find Gerontius far beyond anything I’ve yet done… I have written my own heart’s blood into the score.’

When it was first released, Gramophone wrote of Richard Hickox’s version of Gerontius: ‘Captured in sound of striking range and focus, Hickox’s bright-eyed conception evinces an almost operatic fervour.’ The Observer called it ‘a masterpiece’, continuing: ‘Arthur Davies is an exceptionally clear, strong and forthright Gerontius, Gwynne Howell a noble angel, while Felicity Palmer is a most unusual icily direct angel.’

On this disc we also have two works by Sir Charles Hubert H. Parry. Firstly, Blest Pair of Sirens, for which both Elgar and Vaughan Williams had the highest regard. This setting of words from Milton’s ode At a Solemn Musick was composed for the Bach Choir in 1887, which Stanford conducted, and it has remained a firm favourite with choirs ever since. Parry composed the anthem I was glad for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and it has since been performed at the three subsequent coronations also (1911, 1937, and 1953) as the sovereign enters Westminster Abbey.

“Much of [Davies's] singing, especially in Part I, is full-throated, almost Italianate and he has all the vocal heft you could wish for...Howell is an imposing vocal presence...The choral singing is as good as any I’ve heard on disc...The playing of the LSO is superb throughout” MusicWeb International, 25th September 2013

“The Elgar emphasises what was lost with Hickox’s premature death. It is powerfully dramatic (the Demons have never sounded more ferociously demonic) but hypersensitive to the marvellous subtlety of orchestral and choral colour.” Sunday Times, 6th October 2013

Chandos 241 - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN241-46

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Cello Concerto

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Cello Concerto


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Mark Tucker (tenor), Lilli Paasikivi (mezzo-soprano) & David Wilson-Johnson (bass baritone)

Sydney Philharmonia Choirs & TSO Chorus

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

Jian Wang (cello)


Sydney Symphony, Vladimir Ashkenazy

Vladimir Ashkenazy directs a stirring performance of two of Elgar’s mightiest works. The Dream of Gerontius is regarded by many as Elgar’s masterpiece. Elgar himself wrote at the end of the manuscript “This is the best of me…” Jian Wang is the soloist in the composer’s final orchestral masterwork, the Cello Concerto.

“Ashkenazy conducts with heaps of spirit, tingling drama and red-blooded commitment to the cause, and he draws an unstintingly fresh and laudably disciplined response from his massed cohorts...The coupling...has to be one of the most communicative accounts of Elgar's masterpiece to have come my way in recent years.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“The chorus are well trained and disciplined although they are not as crisp or characterful as some...Worth hearing for a magnificent Angel but thereafter only fitfully engaging.” MusicWeb International, June 2012

ABC Classics - ABC4764297

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Vinson Cole (tenor), John Hancock (bass), Jane Irwin (soprano)

Bard Festival Chorale, American Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein

American Symphony Orchestra - ASO199

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Elgar - The Dream of Gerontius

Elgar - The Dream of Gerontius


Berlioz:

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

live 2nd January 1947

The Halle Orchestra

Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

recorded 20th November 1957

Jon Vickers, Constance Shacklock & Marian Nowakowski

RAI Orchestra


“Vickers doesn't disappoint, singing with an intensity and a care for the sound and sense of every word that are well nigh ideal. As the Angel, Constance Shacklock, gravely beautiful if occasionally too grand, is first-class, too. The drama Barbirolli brings to the work is recognisable from his later studio account, but here the live sound is at best adequate and at worse unacceptable, with a microphone placed so close to the conductor that at times he seems to be duetting with Vickers. The orchestra and chorus do their best, which isn't quite good enough; it's Vickers who makes this a must-have.” The Guardian, 23rd May 2008 ***

Archipel Records - ARPCD0403

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Severn Suite, Op. 87


CRD - CRD33267

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


A high density DSD recording, live at the Barbican Centre on 11-13 December 2005. 36 page booklet with notes in English, French and German, Text in English only

“orchestral textures were sensuously coloured, and the vast symphonic structure flawlessly paced and handled.The choral singing, thrilling in its immediacy and clarity, can only be described as electrifying from start to finish” The Guardian

“…a deeply felt, thoughtful and, where needed, highly dramatic interpretation of an indisputable masterpiece.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2006

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LSO Live - LSO0083

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Parry: Blest Pair of Sirens & I was glad

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Parry: Blest Pair of Sirens & I was glad


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Parry:

Blest Pair of Sirens

I Was Glad


Chandos - CHAN8641

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Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, etc.

Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Paul Tortelier (cello), Heddle Nash - Gladys Ripley - Dennis Noble - Norman Walker (solo singers)

Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent

“This pioneering set of Gerontius has come up newly minted in these superbly engineered transfers taken from 78rpm masters. That only enhances the incandescence and fervour of the reading itself, in virtually all respects the most convincing the work has received. Sargent's conducting, influenced by Elgar's, is direct, vital and urgently crafted with an inborn feeling for the work's ebb and flow and an overall picture that comprehends the piece's spiritual meaning while realising its dramatic leanness and force. Heddle Nash's Gerontius is unrivalled in its conviction and inwardness. He'd been singing the part since 1930, and by 1945 the work was in his being; he sang it from memory and had mastered every facet. 'Take me away' is like a searing cry of pain from the depth of the singer's soul. Gladys Ripley is a natural and communicative Angel, her flexible and appealing tone always a pleasure. The Liverpool Philharmonic lives up to its reputation at the time as the country's leading orchestra (in particular the sonorous string section), and the members of the Huddersfield Choral Society sing as if their lives depended on it.
Tortelier's Cello Concerto presents the Classical approach as compared with the Romantic one of du Pré, and is the best of Tortelier's readings of the work on disc, with his tone and phrasing at their firmest and most telling. A considered and unaffected reading among the best ever committed to disc.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Matthew Best (bass), Sarah Fryer (mezzo soprano), William Kendall (tenor)

Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Waynflete Singers Choir, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, David Hill

Naxos - 8553885-86

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Barbirolli in New York: The 1959 Concerts

Barbirolli in New York: The 1959 Concerts


Barbirolli:

An Elizabethan Suite

Recorded 10th January, 1959

Brahms:

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77

Recorded 18th January, 1959

Berl Senofsky (violin)

Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Recorded 25th January, 1959

Richard Lewis (tenor), Maureen Forrester (contralto), Morley Meredith (baritone)

Westminster Choir

Introduction & Allegro for strings, Op. 47

Recorded 3rd January, 1959

William Lincer (viola), John Corigliano & Leopold Rybb (violin) & Laszlo Varga (cello)

Haydn:

Symphony No. 88 in G major

Recorded 10th January, 1959

Holst:

The Planets: Mars

The Planets: Mercury

The Planets: Uranus

The Planets: Jupiter

Recorded 18th January, 1959

Mahler:

Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'

Recorded 10th January, 1959

Vaughan Williams:

Symphony No. 8 in D minor

Recorded 3rd January, 1959


Barbirolli conducted the New York Philharmonic from 1936 to 1943 and returned to New York in 1959 to conduct the orchestra in a series of concerts featuring English repertoire rarely heard by Americans. Here are the best performances of Sir John’s visit, previously unissued, in state-of-the-art digital restorations. Includes “Dream of Gerontius” with Richard Lewis, a very fine Gerontius.

“[Gerontius] anticipates the superlative studio recording Barbirolli and Lewis made together with Janet Baker five years later, though Maureen Forrester is a more than capable Angel here and the baritone, Morley Meredith, is arguably superior to his later equivalent...The mono sound is patchy but just about serviceable, but Barbirolli fans won't worry about that.” The Guardian, 23rd September 2010 ***

West Hill Radio Archive - WHRA6033

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