Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius; Organ Sonata in G (orch. Jacob)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: The Dream of Gerontius; Organ Sonata in G (orch. Jacob)
PERFORMER: Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Michael George (bass); Huddersfield Choral Society, Royal Liverpool PO & Choir/Vernon Handley
It’s clear from the sumptuously played Prelude that orchestrally this is going to be an impressive Gerontius. Vernon Handley knows exactly how to pace the score, and he lets the music breathe and glow with a wide palette of colours; even at the dawn of his international fame, Elgar was a masterly orchestrator. Of course, a Gerontius performance also depends heavily on the choir, and the combined Liverpool and Huddersfield forces do not disappoint. They produce a very refined, ‘English’ tone, which is well suited to the prayers and invocations of Part One. I’ve heard Demons who spit more, and ‘Praise to the Holiest’ might have benefited from a slightly weightier sound, but it’s a joy to hear such well-disciplined choral singing, and such clear words. Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s Gerontius is an utterly convincing portrayal, conveying both the anguish of the dying man and the serenity of the released soul at the start of Part Two. Every bit as good is Catherine Wyn-Rogers’s velvet-toned Angel, whose diction and sense of line are infallible. Michael George’s two brief solos are perhaps less memorable, but he produces just the right dark tone. Coupled with a reissue of Handley’s excellent account of the early Organ Sonata (orchestrated by Gordon Jacob), this makes an excellent bargain at mid-price. Stephen Maddock

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