The Dream of Gerontius

March 23rd

This evening for some reason I decided to listen to The Dream of Gerontius – the recording I have with Britten conducting. An amazingly dynamic and vivid performance – I remember years ago seeing him conduct it on TV, with the same performers, I think – Pears, Yvonne Minton and John Shirley-Quirk. Sitting on the boat alone on the dark river in the middle of nowhere, listening just by firelight, the effect has been very intense and moving; it’s one of those works that can keep coming alive again and again, however many times one may have heard or even sung it. The vision is acutely moving – so much so it almost makes you wish it was all true; even though if it was it would actually be quite terrifying – but the terror, and the joy, would give such meaning to things. I think this is the sort of thing C.S. Lewis meant by calling his autobiography Surprised by Joy – for him it was a sort of surprise, to suddenly re-discover this great meaning in existence, after he had given up hope in it. I still don’t understand how it happened, though. I can believe – sort of – while the music lasts – but then….

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