Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ
Despite Robin Ticciati’s successful Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO)recordings of Berlioz, this features the Swedish Radio Symphony – ironic, since this gentlest of Berlioz’s masterpieces is so lightly scored it’s well within the reach of chamber forces. A few years ago Ticciati did in fact conduct a memorable SCO performance of L’enfance du Christ with a superlative young cast, and it’s perhaps a shame that this wasn’t reproduced. His cast here is rather variable, and its best members familiar from other very good recordings. This is no disadvantage in the case of Yann Beuron, still probably France’s finest lyric tenor, a compelling Récitant with open, ardent tones and warm delivery. It’s some years since soprano Véronique Gens first recorded Marie, and despite her idiomatic delivery she no longer sounds as fresh or vulnerable. Bass Alastair Miles is a splendidly anguished but restrained Herod and benign Ishmaelite, singing decent French. Bass-baritone Stephan Loges (late substitute for Krister St Hill) is a rather bland Joseph, but the two Swedish Romans are fine.
Ticciati’s conducting is warm and vivid, and his textures translucent; Herod’s dark brass and woodwind sonorities comes over just as well as the Holy Family’s lighter-hued serenity. The Flight into Egypt is particularly beautiful, with the Swedish chorus in mellow form. This joins the finest versions, with Colin Davis and Philippe Herreweghe, but doesn’t stand out as clearly as it might have.
Michael Scott Rohan