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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
28
Berlioz: Grande Messe des Morts
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on 29 April 2013
The reverberations of St Paul's Cathedral provide wonderful acoustics for this magnificent work, all too often recorded or performed in dull surroundings. They also provide an extra challenge for the performers, but there is no evidence of the Doppler effect often heard in Cathedrals when live. Unfortunately, the tempo in certain sections is a little ponderous, but I've come to expect that with Sir Colin Davis's work. His moans and groans can be heard occasionally, but that's no different than if you were at a live concert, This was ordered before his untimely death and I'm not sure if this was the last recording he made, but if it is, it's a wonderful memorial.
19 people found this helpful
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on 14 March 2018
Hector Berlioz’s Requiem, officially known as “La Grande Messe des Morts”, was composed in 1837 to commemorate the dead of the Revolution of July 1830. The openly agnostic Berlioz was perhaps not the most obvious choice of composer to write a piece of sacred music, but he accepted the commission because he wanted to compose a large-scale work for choir and orchestra. The work is scored for a very large orchestra, including four offstage brass ensembles. The word “requiem” is, of course, Latin for “rest”, but in common with some other composers of requiems, notably Verdi, Berlioz at times seems less to be sending the dead to eternal rest than trying to wake them from their slumbers, particularly during the “Dies Irae”, “Tuba Mirum”, “Rex Tremendae Majestatis” and “Lacrimosa” sections.

There is, however, one major difference between Berlioz’s Requiem and Verdi’s, which was written nearly forty years later even though the age difference between the two men was only ten years. Verdi’s is a much more “operatic” work with numerous passages for both male and female soloists. Berlioz’s is much more “choral”; he only uses one soloist, a tenor, and that only in one movement. The orchestration, which makes great use of woodwind, brass and percussion, is reminiscent of that in Berlioz’s “Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale”. The work requires great resources to perform; the premiere involved over four hundred performers, but Berlioz envisaged even more grandiose performances, with a chorus of “700 to 800 voices”.

There are numerous versions of this work available on CD, most of which I am not familiar with; I chose this one because Sir Colin Davis was known as a lover of, and expert on, Berlioz’s music, and I was not disappointed by an interpretation which captures the full power of the “Requiem”. The “Dies Irae” is appropriately wrathful and the “Rex Tremendae” appropriately fearful, the literal meaning of the Latin adjective “tremendus”. (The modern English word “tremendous” has weakened that meaning somewhat). The “Lacrimosa” does not sound particularly lachrymose, but then Berlioz never intended it to. These highly dramatic sections are counterbalanced by softer, gentler ones; the requiem mass is as much about God’s love as about His wrath. Berlioz may not have believed in these concepts literally, but that did not prevent him from responding to them on an emotional one. Listening to Davis and the LSO I could well understand why this was Berlioz’s favourite among his works; he said (as Beethoven did of “Fidelio”) that if all his works but one had to be destroyed, this is the one he would choose to save.
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on 22 January 2014
I purchased the old Colin Davis/ Ronald Dowd recording, which held sway for a quite a long time when there only very few recordings available. This is not an easy piece to record: the old recording was not of the best quality. Apparently, this new recording was made in St Paul's cathedral, not an easy venue, but the engineers have really pulled it off. As another reviewer says, the recording is better than many of those LSO Live recordings made in the Barbican. The Sanctus is really written too high for the tenor (who am I to criticise Berlioz?) making it very difficult to avoid strain in the voice. Barry Banks makes a very good attempt, rather better than Ronald Dowd was able to.
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on 24 May 2013
I attended the concert at St. Paul's last year,seats under the dome ( the only place to be for large choral concerts,otherwise the echo spoils the sound). The performance was brilliant as is this recording,so much better than my other one conducted by Bernstein which is quite an old recording now. A fitting memorial . No hesitation in recommending this.
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on 15 December 2016
Good , but dynamics poor. You may have to be fiddling endlessly with the volume controls. To begin with you might not hear anything, turn the volume up and ....later on....
One person found this helpful
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on 2 November 2014
Berlioz's Requiem has been a favourite of mine for longer than I can remember and I'm familiar with several different recordings. The subject of this review, by the LSO and Collin Davis, is the most tremendous and powerful I've ever heard. I feel lucky in having come across it - it's wonderful!
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on 9 February 2016
My first foray into Berlioz, since listening to Symphonie Fantastique as a kid. There are some stunning passages in this. I've always felt that there should be something like this, because Wagner is so dissappointing.
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on 28 March 2018
No complaints
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on 19 June 2013
The sound is a bit cavernous given that the mass was recorded live inside St. Paul's Cathedral. However, don't be put off by that as the interpretation is certainly very good and the singing inspired.
4 people found this helpful
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on 24 September 2016
Splendidly sepulchral. Thrillingly dramatic. A monument for the late great man.
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