Confidently, Elgar wrote on the manuscript of The Dream of Gerontius, ‘This is the best of me’. Despite a shaky start at its premiere in 1900, the work quickly established itself as a masterpiece.

Elgar adapted Cardinal Newman’s poem of the death and resurrection of ‘a man like us … a sinner’, creating the work’s dynamic through Wagnerian leitmotifs and superb, varied choral writing. Sir Mark’s personal high spot is Elgar’s masterly control of momentum from the moment when Gerontius’s soul encounters the Angel, performed by Alice Coote who also appears on the Hallé’s Gramophone award-winning recording, to his split-second vision of the Almighty, a huge musical span including two of the work’s marvellous set pieces, the ‘Demons’ Chorus’ and ‘Praise to the Holiest’. Singing Gerontius for the first time in the UK is the American tenor, Michael Spyres, whom Sir Mark describes as ‘an amazing artist’.

Alice Coote – Angel
Michael Spyres – Gerontius
Neal Davies – Priest/Angel of Agony