Thursday, 24 May 2007

The Dream of Gerontius and Westminster Cathedral

Tonight, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus performs Elgar's Dream of Gerontius - his setting of Cardinal Newman's glorious poem - to mark the 150th of the great composer's birth. It recalls the last performance of the Oratorio in the Cathedral, in June 2003, which itself marked the centenary of its first London performance, given at the newly constructed Westminster Cathedral in 1903.

The first performance of the work, in Birmingham, had been a disaster. After successful performances in Germany, Sir Edward Elgar was ready to try it again, and the London event was a triumph, establishing the Dream of Gerontius as one of the greatest of Elgar's works, and a worthy setting of Newman's poem.
For our centenary performance in 2003, we were loaned Elgar's original manuscript score, from the Birmingham Oratory.

Our guest of honour was Prince Charles, a fan of both the composer and the Cardinal!

Even more astonishing, the Oratory loaned us Cardinal Newman's manuscript copies of the poem - in draft and final form. The poem was given to Sir Edward Elgar (a catholic) as a wedding gift, and it was his life's ambition to set it to music.

Both the original, and the centenary, performances took place in the presence of the Duke of Norfolk, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Below, a famous old picture shows the newly opened Archbishop's House; on the hoarding to the extreme left, and advertisement for the 1903 performance of the Dream of Gerontius!

That great event, and its centenary, are commemorated by Tom Phillips' panel in the Holy Souls' chapel.

1 comment:

John the organist said...

And it was a splendid performance too!