Friday, December 19, 2008

Lux Christi


Winter view of the Catholic Abbaye Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation, Le Barroux, France, which featured in a New York Times article a while back. Over the Christmas holiday I will be featuring photos taken on my recent visit to France and inspired by the late Richard Hickox's recording of Elgar's oratorio The Light of Life. Paths converge here. Richard Hickox's father was an Anglican vicar, while Sir Edward Elgar was a practicing Catholic. The Light of Life was originally called Lux Christi, but the title The Light of Life was deemed more suitable for a work commissioned for the Anglican cathedral in Worcester. Today the oratorio is known for the opening Meditation which is sometimes performed as a concert piece. The Light of Life predates Elgar's three choral masterpieces The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Kingdom, and themes from it appear in the latter two works, most notably the deeply moving Light of Life motif in The Kingdom. Today, The Apostles and The Kingdom are overlooked, and the Light of Life is virtually unknown. A pity, because, as George Bernard Shaw wrote, Elgar was carrying on Beethoven's business.

Dedicated to Richard Hickox, Vernon Handley, Esbjörn Svensson and the other great musicians who left us in 2008. More Lux Christi here. The Chandos CD of The Light of Life was bought online for surprisingly little. I stayed at L'Abbaye-Sainte-Madeleine at Le Barroux. The Rule of Saint Benedict says all travellers should be welcome. Donations are what can be afforded, some monasteries suggest a minimum of 30€ a day for accomodation. All original photos on the path are taken with a Casio EX-Z120 digital pocket camera. It is no longer available but retailed for around £70. Photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. 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

2 comments:

Pliable said...

Email received:

Dear Mr. Shingleton:

Begging your pardon, and if you do not mind, the quotation of the "Light Of Life" theme of which you wrote occurs in the opening chorus of _The_ _Apostles_, at the words "and recovering of sight to the blind," not in _The_ _Kingdom_. I think that this first of Elgar's oratorios was the first of his pre-_Gerontius_ choral works with orchestra I heard, and, strange to tell, probably remains my favourite among them, though those who claim _Caractacus_ as the finest of these might possibly be right. I have the late Maestro Hickox's recording of this latter, though I know of his recording of the oratorio and its soloists, it having one of these in common with the version I have, the older Groves, Mr. Shirley-Quirk. I am considering adding Maestro Hickox's recording of _The_ _Apostles_ to Sir Adrian's which I also have since it includes a favourite singer of mine and many, Mr. Terfel, though it _MIGHT_ not be as fine overall as that earlier effort. As you might know, the late Maestro Handley was at least available for Sir Adrian's _Apostles_ in the event he might take ill during the sessions, though I do not recall any references to him having had to do anything during said sessions.

Hoping, as usual, that this finds you well, and with many best wishes for the upcoming Season and New Year of 2009, I remain

Gratefully, respectfully and sincerely,

J. Vaughan

p.s. One wonders if the sessions on which Maestro Hickox was engaged at the time of his death, of Holst's _Choral_ _Symphony_, were somehow completed by someone else. I personally think we could do with a modern-day recording of that work so that we might re-assess it.

Pliable said...

Re. Richard Hickox's recording of the Holst Choral Symphony.

Sadly, I understand that the sessions were only at an early stage at the time of the conductor's untimely death, and there is no possibility of a commercial release being made of them.

It is a sign of the times at EMI that the classic Boult recording of the Choral Symphony (which was coupled with Imogen Holst conducting the Choral Fantasia) is currently deleted.

Richard Hickox's cycle of the Vaughan Williams symphonies is also uncompleted, although there is a possibility that the gaps may be filled with off-air recordings.