Chandos Records CHAN 241-46
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius; Parry: Blest Pair of Sirens; Parry: I was glad – Felicity Palmer, Arthur Davies, Gwynne Howell, Roderick Elms (organ), London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox
In The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar succeeded in writing a religious choral work that fell firmly outside the established genres of either the oratorio or the cantata, and unusually the text itself was not biblical either. Large sections of Cardinal Newman’s poem about the journey of a man’s soul to judgement and Purgatory are simply, as the score states, ‘set to music’ by Elgar. The composer himself knew that in this work he had created something very special indeed. On the manuscript score, he quoted Ruskin: ‘This is the best of me… this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.’ It was written ‘from my insidest inside’, he confided to a friend, and to another he wrote that ‘you will find Gerontius far beyond anything I’ve yet done… I have written my own heart’s blood into the score’.
When it was first released, Gramophone wrote of Richard Hickox’s version of Gerontius: ‘Captured in sound of striking range and focus, Hickox’s bright-eyed conception evinces an almost operatic fervour.’ The Observer called it ‘a masterpiece’, continuing: ‘Arthur Davies is an exceptionally clear, strong and forthright Gerontius, Gwynne Howell a noble angel [of the agony], while Felicity Palmer is a most unusual icily direct angel.’
On this disc we also have two works by Sir Charles Hubert H. Parry. Firstly, Blest Pair of Sirens, for which both Elgar and Vaughan Williams had the highest regard. This setting of words from Milton’s ode At a Solemn Musick was composed for the Bach Choir in 1887, which Stanford conducted, and it has remained a firm favourite with choirs ever since. Parry composed the anthem I was glad for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and it has also been performed at the three subsequent coronations (1911, 1937, and 1953) as the sovereign enters Westminster Abbey.
Neeme Järvi – Highlights from a remarkable 30-year recording career
This year, we celebrate the thirty-year conducting career of Neeme Järvi with Chandos Records, as well as the conductor’s own seventy-fifth birthday.
We mark the double occasion with this two-disc set of highlights, featuring a varied selection of concert hall rarities and core classics, along with some popular showpieces and examples of Järvi’s championing of Estonian and American music. In the course of his conducting career, Järvi has amassed a distinguished discography of more than 440 recordings, well over 150 of them for Chandos. He has a rare ability to galvanise an orchestra into giving an interpretation of exceptional vigour and drive. Gramophone said of his recently concluded Halvorsen series (from which La Mélancolie and Bojarernes Indtogsmarsch are taken): ‘Järvi finds in the music a drama and pathos that might come as a revelation even to the composer.’
Also on this disc is the ‘Jester’s Dance’ from Tchaikovsky’s incidental music to The Snow Maiden, a personal favourite of the conductor’s, and one that Järvi often performs as an encore at his many concerts around the world.
Dyson: The Canterbury Pilgrims; At the Tabard Inn; In Honour of the City – Yvonne Kenny (soprano), Robert Tear (tenor), Stephen Roberts (baritone), London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox
The re-release of this pioneering account of The Canterbury Pilgrims forms part of the new Hickox Legacy commemorative series on Chandos Records, leading up to (and continuing beyond) the fifth anniversary, in November 2013, of the conductor’s untimely death. The Canterbury Pilgrims, a colourful but neglected work by Sir George Dyson, brilliantly depicts assorted characters from the Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and this recorded interpretation highlights key aspects of Hickox’s recorded legacy: the championing of neglected repertoire in general, and British repertoire in particular, as well as a special affinity with choral music.