ALBUM TITLE: Berlioz
WORKS: Roméo et Juliette; Marche troyenne; Chasse royale et Orage
PERFORMER: Michèle Losier (mezzo-soprano), Samuel Boden (tenor), David Soar (bass); BBC Symphony Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA5169(2) (hybrid CD/SACD)
Recordings often arrive like rush-hour buses, in packs. On the heels of Valery Gergiev’s recent Roméo come two more, adding to almost 20 already available. Robin Ticciati (see review, p87) is a fine Berliozian, whereas I recently found Andrew Davis’s Harold in Italy rather bland. That, though, definitely doesn’t apply here. Unlike Ticciati’s and Gergiev’s recordings, this is studio-made, but in the wake of an acclaimed live concert this January, retaining much of its immediacy. Davis’s reading is slower but grander, richly expansive, glowingly warm and full of subtle atmospheric nuances, bringing Berlioz’s contrasting sound pictures vividly to life – the ‘Tumulte’, the finely pointed instrumental solos, the sensuous love music, the guests departing the ball, the delicate yet surging Mab scherzo, the thunderous concluding affirmation.
His youngish soloists are equally fine, French mezzo Michele Losier sweetly appealing, Samuel Boden impishly fluent, and David Soar almost as imperiously resonant as David Ward in Pierre Monteux’s idiomatic 1962 recording. Davis takes full advantage of a magnificent SACD recording, epically spacious, illuminating the excellent chorus and soloists vocal and instrumental in sharp detail; it demands a really good sound system to give its best, though. This has rapidly become a favourite contemporary version, but if you’ve already bought Colin Davis or Gergiev you need have no regrets.
Michael Scott Rohan