Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Gerontius - that is a sublime masterpiece
On 29 September 1958 John Barbirolli conducted Part 1 of Gerontius with the Dublin Choir in the presence of Pope Pius XII at Castel Gandolfo, only a few days before the Pope's death. 'I have often wondered', he wrote, 'what the feelings of Newman and Elgar would be if they could know that the last music [the Pope] heard had been Elgar's setting of Newman's words "Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul". As Barbirolli knelt before him, the Pope said: 'Figlio mio, questo e un capolavoro sublime' ('My son, that is a sublime masterpiece').
The header photo shows Sir John Barbirolli recording The Dream of Gerontius in 1964 in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. No CD collection is complete without Barbirolli's Manchester account or Benjamin Britten's version which was recorded in Snape Maltings, the latter is now, thankfully, back in the catalogue - grab it while you can. Also noteworthy is the recent first-ever CD release of Barbirolli conducting Gerontius in Rome in 1957 with the RAI Rome Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. This super-budget version from Archipel has come available because the original recording issued on LP is now out of copyright. Despite the poor quality of the RAI sound the Rome recording is an important historical document as it is the only version with the incomparable Jon Vickers in the title role (the Hallé version has Richard Lewis). But Barbirolli's Manchester version is the one to have, as the Holy Father said 'that is a sublime masterpiece'.
Now read about Glorious John in New York.
Quotation from Barbirolli, the Authorised Biography by Michael Kennedy. The Dublin Choir was from Our Lady's Choral Society. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk