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dream of gerontius

Some pieces of music have a special place in your life, and Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ has one in mine.

Elgar was one of the composers I encountered as a teenager, not through the Enigma Variations and Cello Concerto which came later, but through his First Symphony.

It was only when I joined the CBSO Chorus when in my early 40s that I discovered his choral works.

Elgar’s ‘Gerontius’ was premiered in Birmingham in 1900, but the performance was a disaster.

Which is perhaps why the Chorus feels particularly connected to it – as if every time we perform it, we are putting right the wrong inflicted on Elgar.

Imagine how he must have felt, sat in Birmingham Town Hall hearing what he knew was a magnificent work being massacred.

In 2000, the centenary performance under Sakari Oramo was ‘from memory.’

As a result, many Chorus members now sing the work with hardly a glance at their scores.

Tonight, the CBSO Chorus can be heard performing ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The concert with our Principal Guest Conductor Edward Gardner is being broadcast ‘live’ on BBC Radio 3, followed on Saturday by a repeat performance at the Barbican in London.

As always, it will be an emotional experience – the chorus passages are some of the best to sing in all music, while the orchestral writing and that for the soloists seem to grow in stature each time you hear the work.

If you don’t know it, the hour and a half it lasts will fly by.

Dame Janet Baker – The Angel – excerpt from The Dream of Gerontius

The Dream of Gerontius – BBC Radio 3

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