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Premier of The Dream of Gerontius

The Dream of Gerontius was premiered on Wednesday 3 October 1900 at the Birmingham Town Hall. The performance was considered a complete catastrophe, although the work itself gained some recognition. The lack of adequate rehearsal time became apparent as the chorus clearly did not know their parts. A friend of Elgar noted:

"as the music became more chromatic they slipped hideously out of tune. (Part II) was hopelessly wrecked by the choir, whose pitiful stumblings indeed remained the outstanding impression”

(Burley and Carruthers, 1972:142)

Although the work was poorly executed, the critical response to the material was largely positive. Reviewers were able to look past the performance to appreciate the musical value of the piece.

However, critics’ praise was not enough to prevent Elgar from slipping into a state of depression over the event. To compound the composer’s anguish further, the thorny issue of money arose once again. Upon receiving his £200 payment for the commission, Elgar questioned royalties.

Understandably, Novello and Co. refused to pay for a percentage on sales which they considered a commercial failure. Once again George Hope Johnstone, Chairman of the Festival Committee (who had intervened previously on Elgar's behalf) negotiated on behalf of the composer. Johnstone managed to persuade the publishers to agree to pay royalties should the piece ever be successful.

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