Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano
Stuart Skelton, tenor
David Soar, bass
Elgar: Sea Pictures, Op. 37
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, a peerless Elgarian who this year was awarded the prestigious Elgar Society Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the composer’s music. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar, and Sarah Connolly who also sings Sea Pictures. This recording was made in the days leading up to their triumphant live performance of Gerontius in April this year, after which The Guardian praised Skelton as ‘the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius’, Soar as ‘an implacable, dark-sounding Priest’, and Connolly as ‘a consummately polished Angel’.
The Dream of Gerontius was commissioned in 1900 for that year’s Birmingham Festival. The score was produced in a hurry but Elgar had long before known the text which the work sets, Cardinal Newman’s religious poem that powerfully recounts the final dream of a dying believer and the journey of his soul through death to Purgatory. At the disastrous premiere the performers struggled with Elgar’s score but this did nothing to stop the immediate popularity of the work. It is recognised today by many as the greatest choral work by an English composer.
Written not long before Gerontius, the song cycle Sea Pictures sets a collection of poetry by different authors, all on a single, loosely related theme. Inspired by Elgar’s love of nature, the songs explore the emotional resonances of the sea, from serene still waters to a mighty ocean storm.