top of page
Dream of Gerontius.JPG
Gerontius Dröm - Edward Elgar
Berwaldhallen, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 3, Stockholm

Friday 18 and Saturday 19 October 2019


It is a great event when Berwaldhallen under Daniel Harding now for the first time in front of Edward Elgar's magnificent oratorio Gerontius' dream. The work is one of Elgar's foremost and three internationally renowned singers carry the solo parts: tenor Andrew Staples, who recently recorded Gerontius' dream with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim, the versatile baritone Simon Keenlyside who, like Staples, has visited Berwaldhallen several times before, and the acclaimed Hall mezzo-soprano .

There is a certain irony in the fact that the Englishman Elgar had to take the detour via Germany in order to bring about a complete construction of his oratorio, while composers such as Mendelssohn and Dvořák instead turned to England to have Elias and Saint Ludmila premiered there. The premiere of Gerontius' dream in Birmingham on October 3, 1900 was a failure. Musicians and critics saw the greatness of the work, but the preparations were deficient: the choir leader had died during the rehearsal, the choir did not master the complexity of the music and also the soloists were mediocre. Elgar himself raged: "I have always said that God was against art… I have for once allowed myself to open my heart, but it is now forever closed to every religious feeling and noble impulse!"

It was when Hans Richter, who conducted Elgar's breakthrough work The Enigma Variations the year before, took Gerontius' dream to Düsseldorf that the work broke through. It was performed there both in 1901 and 1902 with Elgar himself present and Richard Strauss praised this innovator of English music.

Gerontius' dream is Elgar's second of a total of four oratorios. Elgar, who was a devout Catholic, had himself chosen a popular poem by the Catholic cardinal John Henry Newman, which depicts a man's encounter with God after death. The first part depicts the anxious Gerontius, actually an "old man", dying in the circle of his friends. They pray to Mary, the apostles and angels for mercy for his soul. A priest urges him to go on: "Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!" In the second part, Gerontius' soul is guided by an angel to the meeting with God. Anxiety disappears, but outside the Judgment, evil spirits and demons gather to take the condemned to Hell. The angel who visited Jesus in Gethsemane promises joy, but also the pain of Jesus' suffering. Voices call from the earth: “Be merciful, be gracious; spare him, O Lord. ”

Text: Henry Larsson



Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

The radio choir

Mikaeli chamber choir

St. Jacob's vocal ensemble

Sam Evans, choirmaster

Daniel Harding, chief conductor

Ann Hallenberg, mezzo-soprano

Andrew Staples, tenor

Simon Keenlyside, baritone

bottom of page