Wednesday, February 02, 2011

For Thine is the Kingdom


Having uploaded yesterday's post about the demise of EMI I spent a poignant evening listening to the company's 1968 recording of Elgar's The Kingdom with the late Margaret Price in the role of The Blessed Virgin. The Buddhist concept of impermanence may be right intellectually but it can be cruel emotionally.

* Sir Adrian Boult conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and soloists in the EMI Kingdom. I agree with Sir Adrian's assessment that The Kingdom is a more balanced and consistent work than that other Elgar masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius. It remains a mystery why The Kingdom is not better known, hopefully Mark Elder's recent London performance with the LSO and recording with the Hallé will help redress this. EMI's classic Bishop/Parker Kingsway Hall version is still in the catalogue, but do I need to say hurry?

** Elgar acknowledged the influence of the German composer Philipp Wolfrum (1854-1919) on The Kingdom. Elgar expressed admiration for Wolfrum's music and in 1901 conducted a performance of the German composer's Weinachtmysterium at a concert in Worcester and provided an illuminating programme note. Wolfrum, who was a friend of Engelbert Humperdinck, Richard Strauss and Max Reger, is now forgotten except for his organ music. Time for a reassessment?

*** Last summer I wrote a post about Elgar titled A closet mystic and developed this theme in Elgar and the occult. The libretto for The Kingdom is drawn mainly from the Acts of the Apostles which links the work to Christian Apocrypha and on to the subject of a recent post, Gnosticism. My point is not that Elgar was a Gnostic, although Mary is a central figure in The Kingdom and Gnosticism does, unlike some established religions, champion the position and wisdom of women. My point is that whereas today we are all linked by social networks, a century ago everyone, from Elgar to Satie, was linked by mystical networks. All that the digital revolution has achieved is to replace exorcism with defriending.

Image credit Dame Margaret Price from YouTube - Othello, Paris 1976 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
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