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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 / Elder, Groves, Terfel, Coote, et al

Album Summary

>Elgar, Edward : The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Elgar's late masterpiece is an extraordinary work full of drama and passion alongside exquisite music of sublime delicacy. It is a moving expression of the composer's unorthodox religious faith and a poignant reflection on a man's journey through death, depicted in striking writing for choir, orchestra, and soloists.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
For all sorts of reasons Barbirolli's famous Hallé account has lived in everyone's hearts for decades. It still will, because there is something about the immediacy and wholeheartedness of its vision that speaks as directly as ever. Mark Elder's approach is more elusive. He draws us patiently, unerringly, into the profound mystery of the piece, judiciously weighing its theatricality against its inwardness. It is reverent in the best sense, with breathless pianissimi and a potency of atmosphere that takes hold from the moment we enter the dying man's room. Just listen to the Hallé strings in the Prelude, or the introduction to Part 2. The stylistic finesse of the playing, the very particular articulation, the inbred portamento - all these qualities are testament to the fantastic work Elder has done with the orchestra.

It is, by a mile, the best-sounding Gerontius we have had, handsome in its depth and breadth with great spatial perspectives and a wonderful sense of how the score is layered. Onto this impressive sound stage comes Paul Groves's Gerontius with a near-perfect blend of poetic restraint and high emotionalism - though some may feel that the 'operatic' hot-spots, 'Take me away!' being, of course, the hottest of them - are wanting in that last degree of heft. Elder and his sound team might have given us something more startling with that chord of 'utmost force' in the moment Gerontius finally glimpses his creator.

No lack of force or presence in Bryn Terfel's proclamation to 'Go forth!' - the portals of heaven open to that, as indeed they do with the arrival of the heavenly host for the great 'Praise to the Holiest' chorus. The Hallé choir bravely gather momentum in that, thanks to Elder's insistence on clear rhythmic articulation, and he achieves a simply stonking crescendo on the final chord, leaving the organ to plumb infinite depths.

Of course, Janet Baker's timbre still haunts every measure of the Angel's music, but the wonderful Alice Coote conveys great confidentiality in her highly personalised reading. 'Softly and gently' is gloriously enveloping - and maybe that's the word which ultimately best describes this fine and most satisfying recording.

BBC Music Magazine
Paul Groves's sophisticated, elegant tenor is not ideally the sort that should be essaying this role. With Bryn Terfel... sounding a little frayed, Alice Coote makes the biggest impact. It's a lovely sound, but none of her 'Alleluias', from the most hushed to the truly exultant, can compare with those of Janet Baker for Barbirolli or Rattle. Good, then, but not great enough for this extraordinary work.

Gramophone Magazine
It is, by a mile, the best-sounding Gerontius we have had, handsome in its depth and breadth with great spatial perspectives and a wonderful sense of how the score is layered. Of course, Janet Baker's timbre still haunts every measure of the Angel's music, but the wonderful Alice Coote conveys great confidentiality in her highly personalised reading.



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Works Details

>Elgar, Edward : The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
  • Performers: Alice Coote (Mezzo-soprano); Paul Groves (Tenor); Bryn Terfel
  • Notes: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England (07/15/2008-07/19/2008)
  • Running Time: 87 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Cantata/Oratorio
  • Written: 1900