On Friday 1 June 2007, to coincide with Elgar's 150th birthday weekend, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra released a new two-CD set containing more than two hours of Elgar's music - The Dream of Gerontius, Enigma Variations and the world première recording of The Holly and The Ivy. The CD was originally to be released on the Warner Classics label, but after Warner's 2006 decision to cancel all new recordings, the orchestra decided to record and produce this CD itself.
The CBSO is joined by the City of Birmingham Symphony Choir, mezzo Jane Irwin, tenor Justin Lavender and bass Peter Rose in Sakari Oramo's interpretation of The Dream of Gerontius.
'Elgar has been a regular and vital part of my musical life in Birmingham', says Oramo, 'and it has been an honour to share my love of this powerful, affecting music with the orchestra of which Elgar was himself the first conductor as well as our magnificent chorus. The performances we have given of Gerontius especially - on the work's centenary, as well as in Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berlin - have been among the biggest highlights of my career to date, and always enthusiastically received by audiences who readily respond to the work's humanity and spirituality. This year I am delighted to be celebrating the composer's 150th birthday in Birmingham with special performances of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Kingdom.'
Elgar wrote his orchestral setting of the famous carol The Holly and The Ivy in 1898, at the same time as he was working on the Enigma Variations. It was only performed once before the manuscript disappeared, unpublished, and was not seen again until 1970, when it reappeared in a parcel of music published for GBP 0.20 from an antique shop in Bewdley, Worcestershire, UK. The piece was revived by the CBSO in the 2005 Worcester Three Choirs Festival.
The double CD is available to order online via the CBSO website.
Posted: 4 June 2007
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