The up and up of Gerontius

The following year, 19 December 1901, the oratorio was successfully performed in Düsseldorf, and again in 1902 - both of which Elgar was present for. The 1902 performance was a great success, with Elgar being called to the stage numerous times to receive the audience’s applause. The Dream of Gerontius had arrived! 1903 saw the start of world wide premieres - from London to Chicago, USA.

The oratorio attracted leading performers. The original soloists were: Marie Brema (The Angel), Edward Lloyd (Gerontius) and Harry Plunket Greene (The Priest and Angel of the Agony). Later performers included: Gervase Elwes, Elena Gerhardt, Clara Butt and Richard Lewis.

However, the strong Roman Catholicism of the work was objected to by various influential figures, and institutions such as the Anglican Church. Some clerics insisted that the Catholic references should be toned down. The actual wording of the poem was not in question – more the doctrine that it illustrated. There was disapproval of, for example, Purgatory, a concept rejected by Anglicans. Elgar did indeed change some of his wording, bowing down to these pressures. The 1910 performance at the Festival was performed with an expurgated text. However, by the 1940s the full performance was once more being provided. For example, the first complete recording was made in 1945 by EMI.

the twentieth century, the success of The Dream of Gerontius continued – to becoming regarded as Elgar’s finest choral composition.

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