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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbirolli at His Inspirational Best
Sir John Barbirolli dearly loved Elgar's music and this comes out in all his recordings, but perhaps nowhere with such passionate intensity as in this magnificent account of The Dream of Gerontius. He said of this recording, "I wanted to leave it as a kind of testament of my faith", and I think that this is very evident as the performance proceeds. He is helped enormously...
Published on 28 Feb. 2009 by Graham

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as emotional as the BBC St Paul's DVD
I realise that almost everyone - incl Radio 3 - says this is the best recording but having bought it after immersing myself in the 75th Anniversary BBC St Paul's performance on DVD (Andrew Davis + BBC orchestra and choir) I have to say I find the late Philip Langridge totally compelling and convincing and very emotionally involved of all the tenors. The DVD seems to have...
Published 11 months ago by David R. Patten


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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbirolli at His Inspirational Best, 28 Feb. 2009
By 
Graham (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Sir John Barbirolli dearly loved Elgar's music and this comes out in all his recordings, but perhaps nowhere with such passionate intensity as in this magnificent account of The Dream of Gerontius. He said of this recording, "I wanted to leave it as a kind of testament of my faith", and I think that this is very evident as the performance proceeds. He is helped enormously by the sublime singing of Dame Janet Baker, most surely a kindred spirit. Richard Lewis also sings magnificently bringing a wealth of experience to his singing of the part of Gerontius. The only fly in the ointment is Kim Borg who struggles with his English pronunciation and lacks the power and projection of Robert Lloyd in Sir Adrian Boult's recording or John Shirley-Quirk in Benjamin Britten's account. The playing of the Halle Orchestra is not always immaculate, but does that really matter when it is so inspired?

The chorus is also similarly inspired. In the Demons' Chorus they are hair raising, and they certainly don't sing like "bank clerks on a Sunday outing", but like "souls sizzling in hell" as Sir John once remarked to a chorus! Another amazing moment is the great blaze of "Praise to the Holiest", which has to be heard to be believed.

The recording has its moments of overload and distortion, but the performance is so overwhelming that this does not really matter.

Sir John left us many wonderful recordings but none better than this.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspired performance, 2 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
This is a classic recording. Richard Lewis is a fine Gerontius, and Janet Baker glorious as the Angel. The weakness is the finnish bass Kim Borg - he struggles with the english pronunciation. The orchestra is good, although intonation isn't always. Barbirollis conducting is very warm and musical (and some would say sentimental - but I think this piece can take it). Overall this performance gives a rare feeling of everyone really believing in the music. This unusual commitment more than compensates for the minor weaknesses I mentioned and makes this recording rather special. Sound quality is decent but unfortunately not quite up to EMI's best standards of the period (1965). Recommended.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully ardent, very operatic and with Janet Baker!, 28 Feb. 2007
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hillbank68 "almac1975" (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is a marvellous performance. I'll say straight away that I prefer the Boult reading, which is very different, but I could quite understand others judging differently. For me, the Boult version has a greater sense of unity and spirituality without any loss of excitement or tenderness, and I greatly admire Gedda's Gerontius and the contributions of Robert Lloyd, who is a good deal better than Kim Borg. The sound is also more recent. But here you have a tremendous sense of commitment and vividness, and the unequalled Janet Baker. I have known both versions for very many years and have never changed my view that Boult's gives a more complete and more musically satisfying picture of this uneven but very wonderful work, but Barbirolli provides something which, as you hear it, is completely convincing too, if you except Borg, who is a definite weak link. No-one could fail to be impressed by this fine performance, but I think there is better to be had.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy memories from a fine performance, 7 May 2013
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P. J. Kidger "Peter Kidger" (Monmouthshire) - See all my reviews
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I was at the performance in early 1964 of Gerontius by Barbirolli, the Halle orchestra and these soloists when it was done in Sheffield with the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. It was my introduction to the work which I found inspiring and emotionally involving, and later in life I enjoyed singing it (in the chorus). I bought the vinyl LP when it came out and have now replaced the LP with the CD version. So this performance has happy memories for me both of the first time I heard the work and more generally of going to Halle concerts at the time. It is a fine performance and Richard Lewis and Janet Baker both move me as I listen to it. I feel Kim Borg's Angel of the Agony sounds too detached, although he has some sonorous bass notes. The chorus articulate the words clearly and move effortlessly from nasty demons to ethereal angels. The orchestra is as good as you would expect. Perhaps the sound quality of a remastered recording is not quite as good as on more recent versions, but if you want a recording of Gerontius that features two of the best soloists to have performed the work, under a conductor who really understood it, and at a good price, then this is the CD for you.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, 22 Aug. 2010
By 
enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
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There has been a tendency for reviewers of the many fine performances of Elgar's Gerontius to focus on what this or that version doesn't have rather than what it does ... to see flaws rather than inspiration and commitment. Here the flaw is sometimes said to be Kim Borg. At the same time the presence of Janet Baker on this version can, for some, make accounts that have a different contralto seem lacking!

But let us be clear, this is a great performance. Borg does seem to shout somewhat but to my ears he does so musically and in an authentically English way! Lewis is an excellent tenor and his articulation ensures that we understand every word he sings (the same applies equally, as it happens, to Borg's contribution). And Janet Baker does, from her first entry, raise the level of the performance to great heights (you have to hear her in this) ... but even without her Barbirolli's loving, somewhat expansive and occasionally slightly indulgent account has to be heard. The recording is not perfect but I would say that it is more than adequate for modern listeners. So I think you have to have this account for Baker and for Barbirolli but you might want to think about what you want it coupled with - it seems to be on the market with a variety of very attractive Barbirolli Elgar couplings.

As for the definitve (flawless) Gerontius, there is no such thing - of course - but I find it hard to imagine being without this one or the amazing Britten version (with Peter Pears - sounding a little past his prime for some but giving a performance of stunning power) or Boult's account (with Nicolai Gedda). All three are wonderful ... and very very different: how lucky we are! Buy any one of them and you have a lifetime of musical pleasure ahead of you or buy them all slowly and over time ... Gerontius is a special work and will never be "captured" by a single account.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Past historic / Future perfect, 9 Feb. 2010
By 
rjmcr (manchester, uk) - See all my reviews
This is still a wonderful account of Gerontius and deserves a place in anybody's collection, but it is showing its age.

Orchestral playing is as committed and passionate as you would expect from Barbirolli's Halle, and he keeps the music moving along without ever rushing it, but the choral singing has always left me a little unconvinced. There's plenty of passion and dedication but they can sometimes sound a little ragged, while the cackling and howling in the Demons' Chorus seemed exciting and characterful at first but soon started to grate on repeated hearings. The same can be said of the Swedish bass, Kim Borg, who is a conspicuous weak link in the solo trio. The unusual pronunciation can be distracting, though tolerable, but his voice always strikes me as wobbly, weak and ultimately disappointing. Richard Lewis is a fine Gerontius although his voice is slightly impaired by the heavy cold he was apparently suffering at the time of the recording (he's the prime suspect for the very prominent off-mike cough at the start of the 'Be merciful' chorus). However, Janet Baker's portrayal of The Angel has passed into legend and is, to my mind, the principal reason for still considering this set. Her singing and phrasing are beyond reproach and she is still the benchmark against which everybody else is compared. Anybody interested in this wonderful piece of music simply has to hear her.

The sound balance of the 1964 recording is near-perfect (perhaps just a little too close) but the dynamic range is rather limited and a lot of the vivid detail of Elgar's extraordinary score is lost. The louder passages can become a bit restricted and congested and the sound never really 'opens out'.

It's a historic and important recording, no question, and some editions are very keenly priced, but it's no longer the clear first choice it used to be. For that, I would fast-forward to 2008 where we find a rejuvenated Halle under the baton of Mark Elder and a Gerontius which is awe-inspiring in its beauty, power, grandeur and spirituality [ Edward Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius ]. I think it's the only recording to have ever surpassed the achievements of Barbirolli, Baker and Lewis and that's the highest possible praise I can give to either set.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep joy., 24 Mar. 2011
By 
Mr. P. Underhill "Peter" (London) - See all my reviews
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It's said that the first recording of a piece of music colours your opinion ever after. True, I admit it! This recording is the same age as me but has aged better.
Abbey Road Studios and Paul Baily have done a quite superb job re-mastering from the original 2" 32 track?
So please forget any worries about the age of the original.
The performance. I've sung this opus as a Tenor and a Bass. each performance was different, changes of Bands, Choirs and Conductors so I always expect something new. Firstly this is a very 'tight' recording, almost Berlin Philharmonic in it's drum.
It has a very 60's open style, broad stereo landscape possibly a flying 'W' arrangement of mikes. It's also very dynamic as my cat discovered during the Devils Chorus.
So, don't think of it as an 'old' recording, instead perhaps as a performance from the heart, which the Dream has in abundance.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious John, 4 Sept. 2009
By 
Andrew C. Mitchell (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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In buying this recording you get:- a historic interpretation of great stature of perhaps Sir Edward Elgar's greatest work, the warmth and smoothness of Janet Baker's voice, a beautifully trained and loved orchestra-the Halle, with a full-bodied chorus combined from the Halle Choir and the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Ambrosian Singers, a string section prepared with every precise bowing mark and a distinctive musical sound, the Free Trade Hall Manchester in the '60s, and the mind and humanity of one of the twentieth century's top ten conductors- Sir John Barbirolli. This interpretation is wrapped in love and is played and sung with passionate, fiery commitment. I buy all of this.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as emotional as the BBC St Paul's DVD, 2 April 2014
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I realise that almost everyone - incl Radio 3 - says this is the best recording but having bought it after immersing myself in the 75th Anniversary BBC St Paul's performance on DVD (Andrew Davis + BBC orchestra and choir) I have to say I find the late Philip Langridge totally compelling and convincing and very emotionally involved of all the tenors. The DVD seems to have almost vanished from sale but I have just managed to buy possibly the last one in the UK. Sorry about that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic recording of Gerontius revitalised, 8 Dec. 2010
I was thrilled to obtain my digitally remastered double CD recording of Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius', originally recorded in 1965 by Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, the Halle Choir and Orchestra and the Ambrosian Singers, with Dame Janet Baker, Richard Lewis, Kim Borg and Sir John Barbirolli. I have had the vinyl version for many years and my discs have become very worn and scratched. It is wonderful to be able to listen again freely to this classic recording. I would thoroughly recommend it.
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Elgar The Dream of Gerontius
Elgar The Dream of Gerontius by Sir John Barbirolli
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