Epiphany: Cornelius brings Christmas to a close.

Today marks the last day of Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany. The story goes that the three wise men arrived at the stable to pay homage to the infant child, Jesus, with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Image result for adoration of the magi

So I cannot resist one last Christmas offering, appropriate for the occasion. I posted a version of this piece in 2016, but I have yet to hear it sung better than this.

Peter Cornelius (1824-74) was a friend of both Wagner and Liszt, but he was not especially sympathetic to their styles. Although he wrote plenty of other compositions, he is one of those composers who is now known chiefly for one piece alone, in his case The Three Kings, and it is the perfect way to bring the season to a close. So today I will be brief and steer you directly to the music, with no attempt to add anything wise to the words of Cornelius, for the text is his, too.

In 2016, I was fortunate enough to play a part in putting together the Christmas concert for the MS Society in St Paul’s Cathedral. Gerald Finley sang the piece with the choir. I have struggled in vain to isolate the clip, but all you have to do is to scroll to 1.16.40 for a few minutes of undiluted nectar.  On that day, I heard it twice in rehearsal; but professionals always hold something back for the big moment, and the sound and clarity on the occasion were unforgettable.

I don’t have any prizes to hand out, but I will be very impressed if anyone can identify both faces behind him.

Click on the image and scroll to 1.16.40 (there are other delights if you want to listen to more, the concert starts at 15.17).









9 thoughts on “Epiphany: Cornelius brings Christmas to a close.”

  1. Firstly, Nick, I have never heard such a heartfelt rendering of The Three Kings and so thank you so much for that. Secondly, I listened to the whole concert and found it so moving and humbling. What amazing courage shown by some of the readers, particularly the young teenager with sympathy for Hamlet!
    Thirdly, could that have been Neil Jenkins?
    Wishing you and your family many happy moments in 2019. Rosemary


    1. Thank you, Rosemary. I’m so glad you did listen to it all, because it was deeply moving at the time and hasn’t really lost its impact. All the readers were actors, none actually with MS, but reading from pieces specially written by the screenplay writer, Abi Morgan. I wanted the concert to be different and to keep in touch with the reason people were there – the theme was ‘Darkness to Light’, which is why it starts off unconventionally and evolves with hope. I had got so used to editing the readings that I didn’t think I could possibly be affected by them on the night, but the Hamlet piece, ending ‘To be. To be.’ reduced me to tears in rehearsal, and again in the concert!
      No, the off-duty Santa was not Neil Jenkins. Will disclose later if I get no further guesses!


  2. John Tomlinson?
    A wondrous rendering of Three Kings; I’m a long-term fan of GF and have sung with him on several projects. Always delightful company as well.
    Over Christmas I read Timothy Day’s excellent book I saw eternity the other night: a history of King’s College Choir and how its distinctive sound evolved. I have always suspected that the architecture and actual shape of the chapel contributes hugely to the acoustic experience, and TD agreed but did not develop the subject as deeply as I’d have liked!


    1. The great man himself, also a delightful person.
      Wondrous is the word indeed. And GF was so enthusiastic about it all. Lucky you to have sung with him. You should have seen the faces of tourists on the day, stumbling across a rehearsal involving JT, GF, Robin Tritschler, Catherine WR, all in jeans or similar: they couldn’t believe their luck!
      Enjoyed that programme too. Happy New Year xx


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