Hertford Choral Society performed Elgar's Dream of Gerontius on 19th March 2016. A review is given below, and pictures were also created by members of Hertford Art Society inspired by the piece.
Elgar wrote on the newly-completed score of The Dream of Gerontius “this is the best of me”. Whilst the influence of Brahms and Wagner is readily apparent, the work remains uniquely Elgarian, one of his most profound and powerful statements, and a tribute to his Roman Catholic faith, which remained strong throughout his life. The forces involved are huge, with full chorus, a massive orchestra, organ, and three first-class soloists required. Elgar rarely uses them all at once, but rather as a variety of timbres and colours, though when he does use the full forces, the climaxes are massively powerful. Balancing all these disparate elements requires masterly conducting, and maestro Derek Harrison, whose favourite work this is, proved more than up to the task, presenting a well-controlled performance, in which every word sung could be clearly heard.
First honours among the singers must, of course, go to tenor Adrian Thompson. The part of Gerontius is very demanding, long, and with most at full voice and fortissimo. Mr Thompson never seemed to flag, and yet the quiet parts were sung with great feeling, managing to fill the vast spaces of the church at each volume level. David Wilson-Johnson’s baritone was excellent in the roles of the priest and the Angel of the agony. The Mezzo Rebecca Afonwy-Jones both looked and sang angelically as the Angel.
The chorus, as usual were meticulously rehearsed and sang with fine intonation throughout. Elgar’s orchestration is perfectly judged, always allowing the singers to be heard , and the orchestral playing was committed throughout.
This was a very fine performance on all counts, and I cannot but look forward to the next concert by our very own choral society, Hertford Choral Society.