‘Proficiscere, anima Christiana’: Gerontius and German mysticism

Aidan J. Thomson

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The popularity in Britain of Elgar's _The Dream of Gerontius_ was triggered by the successful reception of the work in Germany in December 1901 and May 1902. By examining some of the writings on Elgar by German critics in this period, I explain that what may have particularly have appealed to German audiences was the composer's engagement with mysticism, something that as well as being a distinct strand of German theology since medieval times had acquired a new popularity among German artists in a number of fields as part of a reaction to the materialism of Wilhelmine Germany. Through a reading of the work that takes into account both its Catholic theology and ideas of mysticism more generally, I propose that the two Parts of the work should be conceived as taking place simultaneously, rather than successively, and that the work is thus best understood as belonging to the genre of epic rather than drama. ©2013 The Royal Musical Association
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-312
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of the Royal Musical Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2013


  • Elgar, mysticism, Schopenhauer, Suso, aesthetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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