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Arts > The holiest of heights

23 June 2016 | by D.J. Taylor

The holiest of heights

 

The thirteenth series of this Radio 4 staple broke upon the ether with a zealous consideration of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (14 June).

“One of the most popular pieces in the choral canon,” presenter Frances Fyfield remarked of a commission executed for the 1900 Birmingham Music Festival – a claim that had this particular listener nodding his head, for no conductor that my music-loving parents ever sang under in the 1970s seemed to think his life’s work complete without an attempt on this late-Victorian masterpiece.

Naturally, the path led back to Cardinal Newman, whose poem gave Elgar his inspiration and to whose spiritual home – the Birmingham Oratory – the composer had presented the manuscript of his orchestral score.





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