Hyperion Records

Gerontius
Although we set hymns to all manner of tunes from different centuries, there is often a great deal to be said for matching the period of the tune to that of the words. ‘Praise to the Holiest’ comes from John Henry Newman’s dramatic poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865), to be set by Edward Elgar towards the end of the century as a great symphonic oratorio. The story is of Gerontius dying and being carried by his guardian angel into the presence of God for judgement. As they approach the inner sanctuary, angels sing this hymn. It was first taken for congregational use in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern, and John Bacchus Dykes (see also tracks 7 and bm), one of the great tune-writers of that most fruitful age, composed it for that book. The wide leaps in the first two lines clearly express the ideas of the first verse, but, even when in later verses they do not have such direct reference to height and depth, they express the striking thought with which each verse begins.

from notes by Alan Luff 2001

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