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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Sea Pictures / Davis, BBC SO

Release Date: 10/28/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5140  
Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  David SoarStuart SkeltonSarah Connolly
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraBBC Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the 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 2014. Skelton was praised as “the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius,” Soar described as “an implacable, dark-sounding Priest,” and Connolly, “a Read more consummately polished Angel” (The Guardian). Read less

Works on This Recording

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  David Soar (Bass), Stuart Skelton (Tenor), Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899-1900; England 
Sea Pictures, Op. 37 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897-1899; England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Amazing heartfelt performance of these two marvel January 22, 2015 By Warren Harris See All My Reviews "This disc consists of two wonderful works from Elgar, “Sea Pictures” which is a 5 movement series of poems set to music (but far more than just tone poems), richly voiced by mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly), and The Dream of Gerontius which comprises the remainder of the first CD and all of the second CD. It is obvious that Sir Andrew Davis cares very much about the subtle nuances of the musical material, and his work leading the always outstanding BBC Symphony Orchestra is truly top-notch here, providing a sensitive and full-range dynamic texture for the soloists and choir to launch from in an all too rare mutually reinforcing partnership with the orchestra. With respect to “Sea Pictures”, the sweeping feeling of the strings in the “Sea Slumber Song” (track 1) and the “Sabbath Morning at Sea” (track 3) provide a welcome breathing feeling to the musical material, while at the same time drawing the listener in. And “The Swimmer” (track 5) is just gorgeous and Ms. Connolly’s soaring melodic voice is a beautiful fit. The remainder of the first CD and all of the second CD are devoted to “The Dream of Gerontius”, which is firmly based in Catholic doctrine and begins by introducing the various themes to be used at key moments throughout the piece. The extremely well written liner notes discuss Elgar’s Catholic background and the fact that it was not particularly popular at the time, which provides particularly valuable insight into some of the introductory material of the piece as well as the strength of will and belief reflected in various ways throughout the work. Personally, I found it difficult to focus on the English spoken words in the libretto because the music and musicality of tenor Stuart Skelton and bass David Soar (what an incredible voice this man has!) provided such a rich sonic tapestry. However, the extremely well written liner notes booklet includes the complete libretto, so following along is not only doable but encouraged as it adds depth and meaning to the listening experience. Track 17 on CD 2 (“Take me away”) where Gerontius is cast into purgatory, is particularly gripping given the context of the liner notes. But when all is said and done, this performance is gorgeous, evocative, emotional, gripping, beautiful, and satisfying. I have no doubt that this performance would have been a lifelong remembered treat if experienced in person. Sir Andrew Davis delivers on this recording (big surprise – when doesn’t he?) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra shows that they deserve their outstanding reputation. The soloists are remarkable, and the combination of all three plus these two magnificent works results in a 2 CD set that is absolutely worth acquiring. This is a five star recording, and I highly and sincerely recommend it. It is glorious!" Report Abuse
 An operatic performance December 8, 2014 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Sir Andrew Davis elicits a standout performance from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and especially from the BBC Symphony Chorus. The ensemble sound is impeccable, of course, but the variety of expression he gets from them makes the chorus active characters in the drama, rather than background figures. David Soar has a rich, full bass. He manages give the lofty pronouncements of his priestly character a sense of humanity. As a heldentenor, Stuart Skelton brings a brightness and energy to the role of Gerontius. And it makes sense -- Gerontius isn't actually a dying old man, but a soul freed from the body of a dying old man. Skelton effectively conveys all the emotions Gerontius experiences as his soul hastens towards its final judgement. Gerontius' guardian angel is sung by mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, who also brings welcome dramatic impetus to her role. To my ears, her voice sometimes had an edge to it that seemed at odds with the ethereal music surrounding it, but that's a minor quibble. Connolly fares better as the soloist in the orchestral song cycle "Sea Pictures," also included with this release. That slight brassiness I heard in her voice is an asset in this work. Connolly sounds as expansive as the seascapes the music depicts, with an expressive energy that's entirely appropriate to the text. Although available for download, I strongly suggest investing in the SACD. The additional detail I heard in the orchestra, chorus, and especially the soloists made this a much more powerful listening experience." Report Abuse
 An outstanding Elgar release November 10, 2014 By Dean Frey See All My Reviews "Sir Andrew Davis has a formidable range of talent at his command in this recording of two major Elgar works written around the turn of the 20th century: the Dream of Gerontius from 1900, and Sea Pictures from a couple of years earlier. He knows the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus well, as current Conductor Laureate and the second longest serving Music Director after founder Adrian Boult. His soloists are well-chosen. Sarah Connolly’s voice is well-matched with the atmospheric music of Sea Pictures, and her singing in the second part of Gerontius is subtle and affecting. As Gerontius and his Soul, tenor Stuart Skelton powerfully communicates the weariness, hope and ecstasy of a spiritual journey. And bass David Soar adds dramatic interest through his roles of the Priest and the Angel of the Agony. This drama is heightened by the strong choral contribution and the large orchestra, in passages cunningly designed by Elgar to move forward the story of Gerontius’ death and his soul’s journey through the after-life. This project receives the deluxe treatment from Chandos, with an excellent liner essay by Anthony Burton, and interesting pictures of the principals from the recording sessions. The SACD sound is exceptional; I recommend this without reservation." Report Abuse
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