The Best of Me - A Gerontius Centenary Companion
The Best of Me - A Gerontius Centenary Companion

The Best of Me - A Gerontius Centenary Companion

Elgar Editions 0953708209 Hardback

Everything you wanted to know about The Dream of Gerontius


edited by Geoffrey Hodgkins.

Elgar Editions 0953708209
Hardback - 384 pages, with 90 illustrations

The apocryphal history of Gerontius is well known - how Elgar's late completion of the vocal score, the Birmingham choirmaster's untimely death and the failure of his replacement to appreciate the complexity of the work led to an under-rehearsed premiere which the critics panned. Fortunately, a German choirmaster in the audience recognised the work's considerable merits and arranged a subsequent performance in Dusseldorf which single-handedly rescued the work from oblivion. But how accurate is this snapshot? What followed Dusseldorf? How widely accepted is the oratorio today? And how important was the poem to Newman's reputation before Elgar chose to set it?

The Best of Me is the first book to attempt to provide a complete history of Gerontius from Cardinal Newman to the present day. Articles previously published in the Elgar Society Journal have been updated and, where appropriate, expanded. New chapters provide a biographical portrait of Newman and his writing of the epic poem, a pictorial tour of the Worcestershire countryside that provided Elgar with the inspiration to compose his masterpiece and a final chapter which reviews the status Gerontius has achieved in the world today.

Learned analyses of the structure of Gerontius are juxtaposed with historical cartoon illustrations of Newman's words. In total, the text is supplemented by some ninety illustrations and additional material from a variety of sources.

With contributors including Elgar biographer Michael Kennedy, eminent musicologist Lewis Foreman and a number of leading authorities from within the Elgar Society, this is a book that should interest the academic and the general reader alike - a pleasure to read as well as a valuable reference source. It makes an ideal present for anyone who has performed the work, and will enhance the pleasure of the many more who simply enjoy listening to it.

Part I - Before Elgar
1. John Henry Newman: a Short Biography
by John Norris
2. The Complete Words - including General Gordon's Gerontius markings
3. Newman as Librettist: Towards a Non-Didactic Poetry of Dogma
by Robert Carballo

Part II - The Composition of a Masterpiece
1. The Places that Inspired
by John Norris & Ann Vernau
2. Birchwood, in Summer, 1900
by Mrs Richard Powell
3. One Story, Two Visions
by Charles E McGuire
4. An English Oratorio as Pathfinder
by Andreas Friesenhagen
5. Sources of manuscripts , sketches and proofs

Part III - The Struggle for Survival
The Birmingham Premiere - a selection of contemporary reviews:
1. In Some Ways a Beautiful Work
by J A Fuller-Maitland
2. Music the Speaks from the Heart
by E A Baughan
3. A Memory from the Choir
by William Bennett
4. A New Kind of Musical Eloquence
by Arthur Johnstone
5. The First Performance of Gerontius
by Mrs Richard Powell

6. Hans Richter and Gerontius
by Gareth H Lewis
7. Elgar and Gerontius: The Early Performances
by Lewis Foreman
8. Ludwig Wullner and the Westminster Gerontius
by David Bury

Part IV - The Intervening Years
1. A Remarkable Musical Event
The Musical Times
2. I Go to Mass
by A J Sheldon
3. A Re-evaluation after Thirty-five Years
by Harvey Grace
4. Genius, Original and Final
by Neville Cardus
5. The Greatness of Gerontius
by F Bonavia
6. The Illustrated Gerontius
by T Martin Jones

Part V - The Recorded Legacy
1. A Comparative Review
by Walter Essex
2. A Gerontius Discography
by John Knowles
3. The Nightmare of Gerontius
by Carl Newton
4. The Dream of Gerontius - A Personal Note
by John Barbirolli

Part VI - Performing Gerontius Today
1. Elgar's Advice to Nicholas Kilburn and Gregory Hast
2. Interpreting Gerontius
by Edgar Day
3. Gerontius in Istanbul
by Ann and John Kelly
4. Gerontius in Budapest
by Alan Tongue
5. After 100 years
by Michael Kennedy
6. A Universal Welcome - An Annex of Recent Performances

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