Berlioz: Grande messe des morts

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz
LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Grande messe des morts
PERFORMER: Richard Lewis (tenor); RPO & Chorus/Thomas Beecham
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4011-2 ADD mono
This CD takes me back to my first Berlioz Requiem in 1959 (December, hence the coughing). Memories of the music needed no refreshment. Those new to the work deserve information and text as well as the delightfully nostalgic note about the actual event. Despite problems of remastering from an unimproved Royal Albert Hall acoustic, the CD demonstrates that for most of its length the performance itself is pretty well unsurpassed. The chorus sometimes overbalances the orchestra, and Richard Lewis sounds too close; but all sing wonderfully. The dynamic range is less than ideal, and the climaxes may overload, but the price is worth paying for a sensitive performance devoid of sentimentality, indeed among the fastest on record; my benchmark, Previn, takes ten minutes more. And who but Beecham could get nearly 150 professional singers and improve Berlioz by using five, not three, pairs of pianissimo cymbals in the Sanctus? Julian Rushton

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