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The main difference is the soloists. What Heddle Nash was in 1945, Richard Lewis had become in his different way ten years later. His Credo is less profoundly felt than Nash's but pronounced with ringing authority [listen -- CD1 track 15, 0:00-1:33]. Whereas Sargent had a couple of basses in 1945, John Cameron manages both the forthright declamation of the priest and the much darker agonies he must command in Part II. It is difficult to imagine anything more tender than the quiet comfort of Marjorie Thomas's Angel [listen -- CD2 track 3, 1:06-2:31].

And what of the chorus? 'Demons' shows these northerners on flame-spitting form. Elgar was notoriously partial to 'somewhere further north' and loved the freshness and conviction of northern singers in his music, turning to North Staffordshire or Leeds for the range and weight of sound he liked. It may be that by the end of the recording, and with purgatory in view, the women were beginning to wilt. If a little freshness has deserted them in the 'Angel's Farewell', it is hardly a blemish on a magisterial achievement [listen -- CD2 track 13, 3:17-4:38]. Sargent was never less than workmanlike; in these two favourite works he is gloriously inspired.

Copyright © 29 June 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius; Walton: Belshazzar's Feast

5 85904 2 ADD Mono REISSUE (2 CDs) 71'15"/57'47" - TT 129'02" 1955,1958 and 2004 EMI Records Ltd

James Milligan, bass-baritone (Belshazzar's Feast); Richard Lewis, tenor (Gerontius, The Soul of Gerontius); Marjorie Thomas, mezzo-soprano (The Angel); John Cameron, baritone (The Priest, The Angel of the Agony); Huddersfield Choral Society; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Malcolm Sargent, conductor

William Walton (1902-1983): Belshazzar's Feast (1931; text selected from Biblical sources by Osbert Sitwell); Edward Elgar (1857-1934): The Dream of Gerontius, Op 38 (1900; words by Cardinal Newman)


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