Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, a peerless Elgarian who this year was awarded the prestigious Elgar Society Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the composer’s music. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar and Sarah Connolly, who also sings in Sea Pictures. This recording was made in the days leading up to their triumphant live performance of Gerontius in April of this year in which Skelton was praised as ‘the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius’, Soar described as ‘an implacable, dark sounding Priest’ and Connolly, ‘a consummately polished Angel’ (The Guardian).
Perhaps part of what sets this recording apart from its competitors is Barbirolli's overall conception of the work: the liner notes point out that he always called the work Elgar's "*Dream,*" and not "Gerontius." This seemingly simple change results in a completely different outlook on the work. In emphasizing the dream-like quality of the work, Barbirolli is at once more daring and more orthodox than his competitors, allowing the quirkiness of Elgar's orchestration and choral writing to burst out time and time again, here cellos coming to the fore, there a clarinet emerging in sudden duet with one of the soloists. Barbirolli is doing nothing more than giving us what's on the page, but what a difference this makes!
There are basically two ways in which conductors may approach the Enigma Variations. Either they can take the music at its face value, treating the set of variations as a symphonically developed whole; or they can treat the work as a series of miniature character sketches of Elgar’s “friends pictured within”, highlighting the personalities of the miscellaneous collection of individuals involved. William Boughton in this reading opts for the second option, and the result bubbles with life.
Chandos are delighted to present the first complete recording of the masque The Crown of India, performed here by Clare Shearer and Gerald Finley, with the BBC Philharmonic and Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Completed by Anthony Payne in 2008 the work conveys all the pomp and pageantry with which Elgar is associated. The work is presented on 2 CDs. Disc 1 includes the entire masque with narration, whilst Disc 2 contains only the music and Marches. The set is sold at the price of one full price CD.
Following the success of The Dream of Gerontius in 1900 and The Apostles in 1903, the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival commissioned Elgar to produce another large oratorio for the 1906 festival. The Kingdom continues the narrative of the lives of Jesus’ disciples, depicting the community of the early church, Pentecost, and the events of the next few days. Although less frequently performed than The Dream of Gerontius, The Kingdom is considered one of Elgar’s greatest choral works, and deserves to rank alongside it. This re-release of the 1989 recording also features Sursum Corda and Sospiri, two short, reflective instrumental pieces, release honors the legacy of the late English conductor Sir Richard Hickox.
Malcolm Sargent's reputation as one of the great popularizers of classical music in Britain arose not only through his long association with the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts (1947-67), but was evident much earlier through chief conductorships of the Halle (1939-42), Liverpool Philharmonic (1942-48), and BBC Symphony Orchestras (1950-57).
By the time he became a fixture at the Proms in 1947 Sir Malcolm (he was knighted in 1947) his was one of the best-known names in England. In personality, showmanship, and energy he was ideal for the nightly concerts.