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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 May 2009
I remember seeing Elder conducting the Halle in this piece in a televised BBC Prom concert a few years ago and being profoundly moved by it. Unfortunately, I was away when they performed it in Manchester last July but this splendid studio recording, made over the following days with the same team, almost makes up for it.

Elder draws on all of his experience as both a noted Elgar and opera conductor to deliver an intelligently conceived and perfectly paced interpretation which, for me, proves without doubt that it is possible to make Elgar's late-Victorian grandeur relevant in the 21st century without resorting to wilful distortions of tempo and exaggerated phrasing. Compare the end of Elder's great "Praise to the Holiest" chorus with the ridiculously accellerated recent version by Oramo and the CBSO, for example.
It is so easy for less empathetic conductors to fall into the trap of presenting Part II of this work as a series of tableaux or, worse still, as three great choruses linked by solo recitatives. Elder sidesteps these pitfalls and continually integrates and progresses the drama without it ever feeling rushed, never losing sight of the entire musical structure.
Overall, he shaves about two minutes off each part compared to the classic Halle / Barbirolli recording and yet he somehow feels less driven and demonic, totally confident in the music's ability to present itself.

The Halle themselves are in a different class to their 1964 incarnation. I personally think it's a crime that this superb orchestra is not more widely recorded. This music is in the Halle's blood and they play with real panache throughout, exposing details in the score that you possibly never knew were there.

The Halle Choir matches them every step of the way, combining clarity, precision and passion with a highly professional musicality.

They are all helped by the wonderful acoustic of Bridgewater Hall and sound engineers who know how to exploit it; this is far and away the best-sounding Gerontius I've heard (my beloved old Barbirolli set sounds harsh and, dare I say it, uncouth by comparison). I've had my hi-fi volume up to unprecedented levels with these discs and the sound never distorts, even at the greatest climaxes. The Bridgewater's splendid Marcussen organ is caught particularly well, breathing deeply and resonantly in all the right places without ever overwhelming the orchestra (try the Prelude to Part I and the terrifying crescendo in Part II before "the glance of God", which will have the hairs up on the back of your neck!).

The three soloists are a characterful bunch. Terfel certainly gives quite a forceful performance of both of his roles but I'm more than happy to hear a ringing delivery of the Priest's Sub Venite after years of living with the wobbly and unidiomatic Kim Borg on the Barbirolli. Paul Groves is a wonderful and properly three-dimensional Gerontius, possibly the best we've had, in fact. Intelligently and beautifully sung throughout, he brings out all of Gerontius' heroic defiance, fear, wonder... his anguished outcry of "Take me away" in Part II brings a tear to my eye every time. And finally Alice Coote... a new Angel for our times. Her "Softly and gently" is heart-meltingly beautiful and crowns an unforgettable interpretation. Every generation needs its heroes and, whilst Janet Baker has been the benchmark in this role for many years, I think Alice Coote can carry the torch high as we move into a new era. I certainly look forward to hearing much more of her. As indeed I will, as I'm seeing this same cast (apart from Terfel) at the Edinburgh Festival this summer, and I've never looked forward to a concert so much!

Whether you're new to this work or know it and love it as much as I do, this beautiful, dramatic, moving recording is whole-heartedly recommended. One of my very favourite recordings of any work.
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on 23 December 2008
It is generally acknowledged by those who love Elgar's extraordinary masterpiece, that the definitive recording has yet to appear. This verson comes very close to that ideal. The orchstral playing and choral singing are by far the best we have had on CD, as is the recording. Mark Elder's conducting is almost beyond praise, alert and responsive to all the composer's detailed requirements. Which brings us to the soloists. Paul Groves is a fine Gerontius. He has a lovely voice and if phrases do not linger in the memory as they do with some other interpreters that is a small matter. The relative disappointment is Bryn Terfel. There seem to be some difficulties in voice production and an inability to sing really quietly when required. But he is still better than many rivals. For many of us the definitive Angel is that of Janet Baker in the 1964 recording conducted by Barbirolli. It is difficult to hear anybody else sing the role without wishing you were listening to Baker - until now. Alice Coote has a very individual voice of rare beauty which she deploys with consummate skill. It all adds up to a Gerontius which is as near perfection as we are likely to hear in this wicked world.
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on 24 February 2013
I've been back to this recording several times but still have difficulty hearing what others hear, at least in part. The choir are marvellous and Paul Groves is an excellent Gerontius, and there are some beautiful orchestral sounds. However Bryn Terfel is certainly rougher than his considerable best. Alice Coote does some lovely things but there are also times where her sound changes worryingly in mid-phrase, as if she's a different singer. My main problem, however, is that some passages seem to me to operate at a low emotional level, admittedly probably not helped by a low recording level. Elgar wanted Gerontius to be a passionate work and while one doesn't need to go to the theatricality of Barbirolli I'm not sure he intended sections like the exchanges at the beginning of Part 2, which don't quite avoid reminiscence of cocktail party conversation, or episodes, such as the Prelude, where for me the surge of feeling seems to be replaced merely by orchestral weight. All the Halle series of Elgar choral works have had moments where the momentum seemed in danger of faltering (but not, strangely, the orchestral series, which has been outstanding) and those happen here, one at a critical point for me. Just before this was published the Oramo recording came out on the CBSO's own label. While it's also not without imperfections, turn to that and you get the moments of rapt intensity and the swell of Elgarian feeling that picks you up and carries you along with it.
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on 13 January 2009
This is a superb performance,in my view the best since the similarly flawed Barbirolli recording. Most of the credit must go to the conductor Sir Mark Elder, who extracts the highest standards from both Orchestra and Choir. Coote is no Baker but she is still very moving,and Groves is the best of the modern tenors in the title role. The draw back, as in the Barbirolli recording is the role of the priest/ angel of the agony. Bryn Terfel is an enigma. Just as in his bland Wotan a few years ago he exhibits a magnificent voice but apparently has nothing much to say and most distractingly is simply always loud. Too many cross over discs perhaps. His is a mediocre effort, which is the reason for 4 stars not 5, but lovers of Elgar should snap this recording up
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on 8 February 2013
I have been a little disappointed by this recording of "The Dream". Although the choir and soloists perform well I find that I'm distracted by the low sound levels especially at start of each section. Perhaps its because I've grown to love this work listening in large resonant cathedrals that I find the rather muted, distant sound frustrating.
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on 1 April 2009
Sir John Barbirolli's classic recording will always be my favourite but this recording is an essential simply because of Alice Coote's 'Softly and gently'. I have played that one track time and time again. Better than Janet Baker and I never thought I'd ever write that.
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on 23 November 2008
This maybe the new definitive recording of Gerontius. Paul Groves (tenor) is magnificent and the orchestra and choir deliver an extremely accomplished performance.
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on 9 March 2009
A wonderful new recording of this Elgar masterpiece.the soloists are superb,excellent diction and the orchestra are world class.
I recommend this 'Gerontius'to every music lover
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on 16 April 2011
I have had this recording for some time, having listened to it after I purchased it concluded it was generally ok! Recently I have been listening to it again and my original impression has altered dramatically. I now believe this to be the best recording in all departments. The recording is superb, with exceptional balance. The performance is beautiful and very moving. I don't have a problem with Bryn Terfel's contribution, the other soloists are exceptional. On the strength of this recording Mark Elder is proving to be an Elgarian for our times. This now dislodges my favourite by Adrian Boult. I urge all lovers of this masterpiece to hear this new Halle version.
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on 14 March 2014
MY friends would love this recording especially with the Welsh voice of Bryn Terfel,this is a recording well worth buying.
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