Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Sea Pictures

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Sea Pictures


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Stuart Skelton (tenor), Sarah Connolly (mezzo) & David Soar (bass)

Sea Pictures, Op. 37

Sarah Connolly (mezzo)


Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, a peerless Elgarian who this year was awarded the prestigious Elgar Society Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the composer’s music. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar and Sarah Connolly, who also sings in Sea Pictures. This recording was made in the days leading up to their triumphant live performance of Gerontius in April of this year in which Skelton was praised as ‘the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius’, Soar described as ‘an implacable, dark sounding Priest’ and Connolly, ‘a consummately polished Angel’ (The Guardian).

Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius was commissioned in 1900 for that year’s Birmingham Festival.

The score was produced in a hurry but Elgar had long before known the text which the work sets, Cardinal Newman’s religious poem that powerfully recounts the final dream of a dying believer and the journey of his soul through death. The performers struggled with Elgar’s score at the disastrous premier but this did nothing to stop the immediate popularity of The Dream of Gerontius. It is recognised today by many as the greatest choral work by any English composer.

Written not long before Gerontius, Sea Pictures sets a collection of poetry by different authors all on a single theme. Inspired by his love of nature, Elgar’s songs explore the emotional resonances of the sea, from serene still waters to a mighty ocean storm.

“Skelton’s bronzed Heldentenor suggests a mature Parsifal, one of Elgar’s inspirations. He is more visceral than the more cerebral British Gerontii, but his thrilling Take Me Away is surely just the Wagnerian sound Elgar wanted. Connolly’s Softly and Gently — and Sea Pictures — rivals Baker’s in beauty of tone.” Sunday Times, 19th October 2014

“Perfect Gerontius tenors are rare. Philip Langridge, who recorded it with Andrew Davis in 1997, was the last. Stuart Skelton, so different in voice colour, fuller and more heroic but similarly human, modest and touching, is every bit as brilliant... A disc of the year.” The Observer, 26th October 2014 *****

“[Davis's] patient and scrupulously observant conception of the whole work evinces a selfless authority, wisdom and instinctive ebb and flow...Skelton's stamina, dramatic range and ringing, Vickers-like tone are a tremendous asset...Soar, too, sings with lofty projection and unstinting eloquence...Arguably best of all, though, is Sarah Connolly, who brings a deeply affecting radiance, sense of wonder and intelligence to everything” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

“among the best Gerontius performances on record. Davis resists the temptation to make the work sound like a flabby, imitation Parsifal and the results are outstandingly convincing...[Skelton] has the heft and stamina for Gerontius's most dramatic moments. He's too intelligent a singer, however, to belt them out operatically...This Gerontius is a wonderful achievement.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2014 *****

“Connolly’s Sea Pictures is very good...the Andrew Davis Gerontius is a reading to cherish. He shapes Elgar’s masterwork with wonderful sensitivity, revelling in the work’s ethereal nods to the hereafter, but grounding the first part in the pain and uncertainty of the death-bed...Skelton is a fantastic Gerontius. He tones down the Heldentenor elements of the voice to stress role's vulnerability.” MusicWeb International, 2nd December 2014

“Sarah Connolly’s understanding and delivery of the text is exemplary, her voice firm, consoling and assured – she is quite the equal of Janet Baker...Stuart Skelton is an exceptional Gerontius, vocally and dramatically: no phrase is ever sung without meaning and one senses a hinterland to his performance.” Choir & Organ

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

GGramophone Awards 2015

Winner - Choral

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2015

Choral Award Winner

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Symphony No. 1

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Symphony No. 1


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Peter Auty (tenor), Michelle Breedt (mezzo soprano) & John Hancock (baritone)

with Collegium Vocale Gent

Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55


The Dream of Gerontius has not been released on SACD before, so for the true SACD aficionado this is a must-buy.

“On this evidence, Edo de Waart is clearly an Elgar conductor of no mean instinct. Both performances benefit from his judiciously clear-sighted direction...there's an endearing freshness, sense of new discovery and wholehearted application about this substantial undertaking.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2013

“The First Symphony, in particular, burns under a surface sheen, and “The Dream of Gerontius” is intensely played and firmly sung.” New York Times, December 2013

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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

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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

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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 ***

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Elgar: The Music Makers, Op. 69, etc.

Elgar:

The Music Makers, Op. 69

Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)

London Philharmonic Choir & London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Richard Lewis (tenor), Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-Soprano) & Kim Borg (bass)

Hallé Choir, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, Ambrosian Singers & Hallé Orchestra, John Barbirolli


This 1964 recording of The Dream of Gerontius, though made over four days at Christmas in a miserable and foggy Manchester, has long been the version of choice in round-up reviews, most recently on BBC Radio 3 in Building a Library. Besides the leading Gerontius of his day, Richard Lewis, and the tremendous doubled chorus, it established Janet Baker as a peerless Angel.

“The must-have Gerontius, recorded in the idealised soundscape so beloved of the 1960s, where choir and soloists are close-miked and crystal-clear. Richard Lewis's well-groomed, classic tones and Barbirolli's deep understanding result in a benchmark reading.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2007 *****

Building a Library

First Choice - October 2006

Warner Classics Great Recordings of the Century - 3919782

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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


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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38, etc.

Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Walton:

Belshazzar's Feast


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Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar


Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Nicolai Gedda (Gerontius), Helen Watts (Angel), Robert Lloyd (Priest/Angel of the Agony)

The Music Makers, Op. 69

Janet Baker (mezzo)


“Nicolai Gedda is the tortured soul approaching death in this recording conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. Gedda's cry of "Take me away!" as he is allowed a glimpse of God for the first time is memorable indeed. The set also includes a wonderful recording of The Music Makers, with Dame Janet Baker treating us to her most honeyed of tones.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, May 2014

Warner Classics British Composers - 5665402

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