The Dream of Gerontius
Edward Elgar

97

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Elgar is the third most popular composer in the Ultimate Hall of Fame, along with Tchaikovsky, as both composers have 12 entries. This is Elgar's 9th entry, and his first to feature in every Hall of Fame since 1996.

Coming just one year after the successful Enigma Variations, it would probably not have mattered which choral monster Elgar supplied for the Birmingham Festival. As it happened, he created a masterpiece, certainly his greatest choral work if not the greatest by any English composer.

Elgar had planned this piece since his thirties, and possessed a copy of Cardinal Newman's original poem with annotations by General Gordon of Khartoum; Gordon's notes on the text were retrieved from his belongings after his demise and became a popular Victorian publication. Despite a near-disastrous premiere performance, the work thrived. Over here, what is less well remembered is that it was only grudgingly accepted because of its Roman Catholic themes, to the point that it was banned in some cathedrals.