WORKS: The Dream of Gerontius; The Music Makers
PERFORMER: Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Helen Watts (contralto), Nicolai Gedda (tenor), Robert Lloyd (bass); John Alldis Choir, LPO & Choir, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 5 66540 2
This is Boult’s last choral recording, made in 1975 (when he was 86), in well-spaced sessions to allow for his failing stamina. A renowned interpreter of the work, Boult was keen to range his Gerontius alongside those of Sargent and Barbirolli for posterity to judge.
There are hairy moments – a Demons’ fugue that nearly runs away; the introduction to ‘Softly and gently’ threatening to disintegrate – but the ravishing orchestral sound and thrilling choruses still result in an intensely rewarding experience.
Gedda’s operatic tenor makes as full-blooded a Gerontius as Elgar could have wished for, though his enthusiastic end-consonants can be off-putting. Helen Watts’s Angel is fine and full-voiced, but I still missed the rich humanity of Janet Baker’s two years earlier under Barbirolli – especially since The Music Makers had already given a taste of her deep tones. Janet Banks