London: Novello and Company, Limited, 1900. Small folio (10 inches tall), original printed paper boards, gilt burgundy cloth spine. Minor edge-wear, slight spine lean, corners bumped, original price struck through on front board (with publisher's ink stamp) and title page. Original binding and text largely clean. Item #869
"I AM NEAR TO DEATH / AND THOU ART CALLING ME / I KNOW IT NOW" Early printing of the full musical score of Edward Elgar's Opus 38—an oratorio based on John Henry Newman's the Dream of Gerontius—in the original printed boards. "While driving himself almost to a pitch of nervous exhaustion in composing the Apologia, Newman experienced the feeling of approaching death. His imagination inspired, he composed the poem which traces the progress of Gerontius' soul from death-bed to Purgatory" (Brian Martin). First published in 1865, the Dream of Gerontius would become one of Newman's most popular and enduring works. In the decade after Cardinal Newman's death in 1890, "the English Catholic composer Edward Elgar turned 'Gerontius' into a much-admired choral work," (Robert Royal) composed expressly for the Birmingham Musical Festival, where it premiered in October 1900.
The initial reception to Elgar's magnum opus ranged from a tepid response to the first performances, to hostility towards Roman Catholicism. The composer and conductor Charles Villiers Stanford is said to have complained that the oratorio "stinks of incense." But, over time, Gerontius came to be regarded as "unquestionably the greatest British work in the oratorio form ... [it] opened a new chapter in the English choral tradition and liberated it from its Handelian preoccupation" (Michael Kennedy). Prefaced with the text arranged in two parts, separated from the musical score by the Contents leaf. The otherwise blank verso of the contents is imprinted with Elgar's Dedication: "A. M. D. G. / Birchwood / In Summer 1900," reminiscent it seems of Johan Sebastian Bach's "S.D.G." (Soli Deo Gloria). Published as a Novello's Original Octavo Edition, part of their series of oratorios, cantatas, and masses, with the publisher's catalogue on front and rear endpapers. The revised price (from "four shillings & sixpence" to "five shillings & sixpence") on both the front board and title page seems to indicate that this is an early printing. Martin. John Henry Newman: His Life and Work. Royal. A Deeper Vision. Kennedy. Portrait of Elgar.