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Load image into Gallery viewer, Elgar: Dream of Gerontius
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Elgar: Dream of Gerontius

4.6
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Customer Reviews

The Ultimate "Dream"This has to be the ultimate "Dream of Gerontius". Although more than 40 years old, the inspired and glorious singing of Dame Janet Baker and Richard Lewis, under the baton of the great John Barbirolli, raise this performance into the realm of an extraordinary experience. Kim Borg does well with his English but has not the insight into this very English dramatic oratorio that Baker and Lewis shine forth with in every syllable and note they utter. And what a glorious sound they both make....shivers up and down the spine time. I love "Gerontius" and although I have enjoyed many other interpretations, this one stand head and shoulders above all others for me. Baker is indeed the "Angel" of all angels.5AstonishingThis is a magnificent recording of a great work that often defeats performers. Barbirolli approaches this music as a red-blooded drama, almost operatically, and his singers cooperate in bringing his vision to life. Richard Lewis does an amazing job, sounding so weary of life in the first part, as it slips away from him, yet sounding reborn thereafter. Kim Borg's English pronunciation leaves something to be desired, but the dark timbre is perfect for the role of the Angel of the Agony. Janet Baker's Angel is incredibly wonderful; if she does not break your heart when she sings "Softly and Gently" you should probably sign up for a transplant. Sure, there are some things I could quibble about, but the overall conception is so brilliant and the music-making so inspired that it shrivels complaints into insignificance.5Barbirolli's GerontiusThere is no better recording of this piece; only Sir Adrian Boult's equals it, in its own way. The recorded sound remains outstanding, for its age. The role of the Angel was one of Baker's signature pieces; Lewis was probably the premiere Gerontius of the 50s and 60s, and while many tenors may have better voices technically, his muscianship is so intelligent and insightful that no one has really surpassed him in the role. Barbirolli brings an almost operatic drama to the work, feeling every note to the core of his being. Thank you, EMI, for restoring this to the catalogue!5Get itGood ol John Barbirolli. The grand old style. Maybe not the most virtuoso but more than just good.5Almost an unequivocal first choicePerhaps part of what sets this recording apart from its competitors is Barbirolli's overall conception of the work: the liner notes point out that he always called the work Elgar's "*Dream,*" and not "Gerontius." This seemingly simple change results in a completely different outlook on the work. In emphasizing the dream-like quality of the work, Barbirolli is at once more daring and more orthodox than his competitors, allowing the quirkiness of Elgar's orchestration and choral writing to burst out time and time again, here cellos coming to the fore, there a clarinet emerging in sudden duet with one of the soloists. Barbirolli is doing nothing more than giving us what's on the page, but what a difference this makes!As for the soloists, there's no doubt in my mind that Janet Baker's performance of the Angel sets this version apart from all others. From her first entrance to her "Farewell" at the end of the work, there is no doubt that she is without equal in this music. Once she starts singing, there is no one else you can imagine performing it any better. And while she has all the warmth and expressiveness one could wish for in the lower register, she still has lovely high notes, including brilliant high A's just before the two climactic points of Part Two.In addition, I prefer Richard Lewis's rendition of the title character to Gedda for Boult and Pears for Britten. Elgar's writing for Gerontius is not "English"; it calls for a style of singing that is almost belongs to the romantic Italian tradition of Rossini and Verdi. As a result, Lewis's bigger voice seems able to convey Gerontius's terror and wonder in a way that his rivals cannot. At the start of his final solo, "Take me away," only Lewis sounds completely overwhelmed; Pears and Gedda seem merely exhausted in comparison.The combined choral forces also outshine all of their rivals, so that not only is all the text clearly heard throughout the work, but it is also communicated with greater expression. One can point out the "Demon" chorus, where one can almost hear the acid dripping from the choristers' tongues amid their snarls and cackles. Yet, just a few pages later, in the central "Praise to the Holiest," the demons have been tamed and sing a brilliant paean to God.The one sticking point is in the performance of bass Kim Borg as the Priest in Part One and the Angel of the Agony in Part Two. While a decent performance in its own way, he is not nearly so compelling as Shirley-Quirk for Britten, Lloyd for Boult, or even Best on the otherwise dismissable Naxos recording. Perhaps the peculiarity of his English accent makes it difficult to take, but he simply does not sound convincing in his two solos, although it is clear that he has the necessary vocal heft to carry over both the chorus and the orchestra in what is very dense writing.So, this should be the clear first-runner if one is interested in the Dream of Gerontius. The other alternative is Britten's, although it is at times a little too eccentric for general consumption. However, Britten's performance on Decca is coupled with Delius's Sea-Drift and another work by Holst, whereas Barbirolli's has no pairing. [Why they don't offer "Sea Pictures" or orchestral Elgar or Delius is beyond me.][P.S. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that Britten certainly knew a lot about choral conducting, as evidenced not only by his own Gerontius, but also works like the St. John Passion and Schumann's Szenen aus Goethes "Faust."]5My dream GerontiusI love the Britten recording of Gerontius, but Barbirolli's somewhat romantic approach brings something to it that Britten's slight dryness erodes. Both Barbirolli and Britten manage the very tricky 'Demons' section better than anyone; often it falls apart in live performance, and Boult, in his recording, doesn't quite pull it off, either. Isn't it interesting that neither Britten or Barbirolli was a particularly experienced choral conductor, but each succeeds with the choral passages where others don't? The orchestra is superb, too, in this recording and the moments of almost-silent Elgarian ecstasy make time stop. Lewis is superb; Baker *is* the Angel. You can't go wrong here.5Agreed, but...I agree with the other reviewers' enthusiasm for this performance; Barbirolli's Elgar is always worth listening to, and Baker's angel is sublime. EMI's remastering of the original recording, though, is unkind to Baker's & Lewis's voices. The original was unsatisfactory in the choral passages, but exquisite in the quieter parts, especially the beginning of the second part, between the angel and the soul. What we have in the CD is an all-round tonal coarsening. This isn't the first time EMI has done this: the CD version of Beecham's magnificent "Faust Symphony" is another travesty of the original. You have to wonder if these people know anything about musical performance at all as opposed to playing with their machines.4Four StarsGreat Elgar.4Brilliant Barbirolli version of Elgar's "Dream"I began listening to Edward Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius" through the fine Adrian Boult recording done with Nicolai Gedda and for a while was unsure whether I liked the work, although I kept listening to it, which is always a good sign. I then acquired the John Barbirolli recording under review here, kept listening to it and at some point became completely sucked in by its fervor and musical inspiration. Sucked in as being at work and looking forward to the end of the day so I could listen to the chorus of the damned in Part II of the "Dream." This is great music and a great performance. It is old-fashioned in every way, from its propriety, to its exalted, precious Catholic text, to the somewhat stilted, antiquated singing style of its soloists, to its emphasis on high-mindedness, so different from today's steady drumbeat of total personal disclosure, relaxed, unschooled singing style, and "nostalgie de la boue" (attraction for the low). The "Dream" dates from 1900 and sounds like something from a radically different era, but appreciating old art is partly about travelling into an older culture, with its different perspective and lessons.This recording dates from 1964, when the English conductor John Barbirolli was in the midst of recording a series of inspired Elgar interpretations. It is close in quality to his version of the symphonies and the famed Cello Concerto disc with Jacqueline du Pre. Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra stress emotion and a beautiful sense of pacing. He is helped by two superb soloists, the tenor Richard Lewis as Gerontius and famed mezzo Janet Baker as the Angel, both at the peak of their powers. As I stated in the prior paragraph, this is very old-fashioned singing. One can even describe it as unnatural and stilted. But it is likely stylistically correct - all the performers were directly in the line of early 20th-century British oratorio performance - and, given the skill and expressivity of the singing, I accepted their stylistic approach and appreciated its artistry. The choral singing is very good.I will point out three flaws: 1) like one of the other reviewers here, I find Kim Borg leaden with a thick, unflexible voice; 2) the recorded sonics are very good, but the remastering has boosted the volume (much like pop music tracks of the last decade) which adds some artificiality; 3) the two-CD set contains about 100 minutes of music, so it isn't filled up.But these are quibbles. This Barbirolli "Dream" is one of the great oratorio performances I have ever heard, it is emotional and coherent, Lewis and Baker are outstanding, and it becomes more and more interesting the more time you spend with it.5Still The Best Dream To Have.This remains THE great recording of Elgar's work, and a fine remastering of the original Sir John Barbirolli performance so admired for many years. If you do not already have this, do not hesitate to acquire it.5
Elgar: Dream of Gerontius

Elgar: Dream of Gerontius

4.6
Error You can't add more than 500 quantity.
Regular price
€46,00
Sale price
€46,00
Regular price
€76,00
Sold out
Unit price
per 
Save 39% (€30,00)