Berlioz: L’enfance du Christ

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LABELS: Erato Ultima
WORKS: L’enfance du Christ
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Gilles Cachemaille, René Schirrer (baritone), José Van Dam, Jules Bastin (bass), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor); Monteverdi Choir, Lyon Opera Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-25595-2 Reissue (1988)
In von Otter, Cachemaille, Van Dam and Bastin, Gardiner has assembled a cast of the finest and most experienced Berlioz singers of our time. Von Otter’s Marie is perhaps the warmest on record, and Van Dam is grimly magnificent as Herod. Rolfe Johnson makes an admirably robust narrator, if a shade portentous in the prologue. Gardiner offers insights of period instrument performance with a modern orchestra, finely toned throughout. A good version by Herreweghe on period instruments is also available. Colin Davis is, again, the modern-instrument benchmark: his newer recording is available in a bargain box, and an earlier one with superb shorter works as fillers was reissued as a ‘Double Decca’ in 1994 – like Gardiner’s, without providing the words. Gardiner, despite short recording time for two CDs, has the edge thanks to more modern recording, this superb cast, and the Monteverdi Choir, outstanding in the final unaccompanied prayer. Julian Rushton