Most helpful critical review
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2012
Generally, I am an admirer of Berlioz's music, and of Colin Davis's interpretations thereof; for proof of this, I have virtually the complete set of the LSO Live recordings undertaken by Davis with the London Symphony. But this time the music itself fails to inspire, and the fine performance presented on this disc cannot make the composition rise above the mediocre.
The fault probably lies with the structure of the piece, which was composed in a haphazard manner over many years. There is no crisis created from which redemption and reconciliation can be achieved, which is quite ironic given the subject matter of the piece. As well as lacking strong melodies, the piece is simply too ... well, too blandly nice. The haphazardness of the piece's composition is concisely covered by David Cairns in his sleevenotes, where he writes, "Though it is not a work of theatre ... The work is structured as a series of tableaux". And that is its problem: it is a curious mixture of different forms - opera, cantata, and motet.
As for this recording of the live concert performance, it has very good sound with fine singing and fine playing. For me, the highlights are Herod cursing his dream (in a style that makes him, incidentally, a briefly sympathetic character); the Shepherd's Farewell (of course); and the opening narration of part three (where the sound quality is so good that you even hear Davis himself). There are moments of great beauty, but they are few and far between.
The recording comes complete with full libretto.