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REVIEW: Highate Choral Society's impeccable Gerontius

PUBLISHED: 13:31 10 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:51 07 September 2010

THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS Highgate Choral Society conducted by Ronald Corp New London Orchestra All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak Four star rating When The Dream of Gerontius received its premiere at the Birmingham Festival in August 1901, it was woefully ina

THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS

Highgate Choral Society conducted by Ronald Corp

New London Orchestra

All Hallows' Church, Gospel Oak

Four star rating

When The Dream of Gerontius received its premiere at the Birmingham Festival in August 1901, it was woefully inadequate. The problem was inadequate rehearsal - a situation conductor and Elgar champion Hans Richter was quick to rectify. Gerontius also faced other issues. It was a Catholic work for a public set in its ways of sacred music. Yet the sheer genius of the oratorio won the public over and showed there was nothing in Elgar's earlier choral works to match its brilliance. Bearing in mind all the lessons of the past, Corp, his singers and orchestra showed, in every phrase, the diligence of preparation. They projected a strong spiritual feeling and allowed the human aspects of the narrative to show through clearly. The Wagnarian influence on the score was given added relevance by tenor Robert Johnston's characterisation of the soul - heroic, noble and only here and there less than assured in attack. Mezzo Catherine Hopper was equally assured and heartfelt in her dialogue with the Soul. No less consistent was baritone Benedict Nelson whose power and colour brought vigour to his part of the Angel and most particularly in the Angel of Agony's "Jesus by that shuddering dread that fell on thee..." Their diction and that of the choir was impeccable and the orchestra vivid in its performance of Elgar's intricate score.

DAVID SONIN


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