The Dream of Gerontius
Edward Elgar

168

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Elgar's choral masterpiece falls 45 places to its lowest Hall of Fame position

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.