Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar:

In the annals of disastrous musical premieres, that of Edward Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, which took place on this date in 1900, wasn’t a complete fiasco in the manner of, say, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Bruckner’s Third Symphony. It did not, however, go well—not by any measure. So poor was the performance, so distant the musicians’ execution from Elgar’s most vivid and hopeful imagining, that the experience left the composer despondent. A devout Catholic, he even briefly lost his faith.

Elgar first encountered John Henry Newman’s sprawling poem “The Dream of Gerontius” in 1889, the year he got married. The wedding ceremony was held in St. George’s Church in the English city of Worcester, where Elgar, like his father, had been the organist. The priest at St. George’s marked the occasion by presenting him with a copy of the poem, which Newman had published in 1865—two decades after his conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism and 14 years before he would become a cardinal.

more here.