What Daniel Barenboim shares with Edward Elgar

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Daniel Barenboim shares with the composer a breezy agnosticism and a love for English moderation. His approach to The Dream of Gerontius is broadsided, utterly secure, without shocks or fancy gestures….

Read the full review here.

And here.

photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht

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  • I am not sure about his love for English modernization. But we all know how his love for English women was.

  • “Breezy agnosticism”? You’re talking about the most profoundly religious work written by a British composer since Handel, a composer whose entire mature creative life was tormented by his ambivalence about his Catholicism? Seriously?

    • From “Portrait of Elgar” by Michael Kennedy:

      [Elgar] expressed a wish that he should be buried at the confluence of Severn and Teme, without religious ceremony. He had for many years avoided going to church and while dying and still lucid he refused to see a priest, none other than the son of Gervase Elwes. He objected to the church’s “mumbo-jumbo”, he said. His consultant, Arthur Thomson, was impressed by his “magnificent courage”. Elgar told him that he had “no faith whatever in an efterlife. I believe there is nothing but complete oblivion.” […] His final days were dreadful indeed. On one of them Father Gibb, S. J., was admitted to his room and told Carice [Elgar’s daughter] afterwards that her father had reaffirmed his adherence to the Roman Catholic faith.

    • The religiosity of Gerontius I think is not the actual Elgar music but Cardinal Newman’s words – and not everyone likes them – even many Catholics!

  • Is Barenboim handsome?

    Why, between the Elgar 2 (2013), Elgar 1 (2015), and Gerontius (2016), are there four browny-tweedy images of this befreckled, sallow, double-chinned, bug-eyed, morose, balding artist?

    To sell the discs?

  • Must be a different pressing to the Barenboim Gerontius I had delivered on its first day of release. Played once and that was quite enough.
    It’s competent enough as one might expect but the substitute singers aren’t that convincing. Gerontius is fine in the softer moments but has no clout when it comes to the really emotional challenges. Catherine Wynn-Rogers made a far better job of it in the underrated Handley version and Thomas Hampton does fine.
    It’s not terrible by any means but the idiosyncratic tempi are distracting with a Prelude that sounds more like Parsifal, it’s so slow. And then there’s the demons chorus with sudden slamming on of the brakes, possibly to make a point, but it fails utterly.
    Chorus – well sung but over enunciated and far too polite. Orchestra is very good but I’d certainly not agree that it is the best recording. If that’s the best that Decca can come up with Imd hate to hear a bad one.
    I’d ageee that there probably isn’t a definitive Gerontius on disc, (if there actually could be a definitive anything) but this one falls short. For completists only I suspect, but it left me rather incomplete. It hasn’t lived up to its hype.

  • There should be no reservations about the Berlin orchestra, there’s much to make them feel at home in this score. But every time I play the Boult, I admire what the (New) Philharmonia strings are doing – and the brass sound great, not too heavy. [The PO strings aren’t too heavy either, by the way – but rich enough to make Strauss and Bruckner sound good]. I know there are quite a few British recordings – so it would otherwise join the longer list – but like Enigma there’s something in the blood.

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