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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hector Berlioz - Requiem; Te Deum (Colin Davis)


Composer: Hector Berlioz

  1. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 1. Requiem - Kyrie
  2. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 2. Dies irae - Tuba mirum
  3. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 3. Quid sum miser
  4. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 4. Rex tremendae
  5. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 5. Quaerens me
  6. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 6. Lacrymosa
  7. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 7. Domine Jesu Christe
  8. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 8. Hostias
  1. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 9. Sanctus
  2. Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5: 10. Agnus Dei
  3. Te Deum, Op. 22: Te Deum laudamus
  4. Te Deum, Op. 22: Tibi omnes
  5. Te Deum, Op. 22: Dignare
  6. Te Deum, Op. 22: Christe, rex gloriae
  7. Te Deum, Op. 22: Te ergo quaesumus
  8. Te Deum, Op. 22: Judex crederis

Ronald Dowd. tenor (Op. 5)
Franco Tagliavini, tenor (Op. 22)
Nicolas Kynaston, organ (Op. 22)
Wandsworth School Boys Choir
London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
Colin Davis, conductor

Date: 1969
Label: Philips



The similarities between these two great choral works – ‘the monumental style, the blend of austerity and brilliance’, to quote David Cairns’s description in the booklet – make them an ideal coupling for a two-CD set. Both are tremendous sonic showpieces, but that does not automatically mean that the latest recording is the first choice. Sir Colin Davis’s Berlioz cycle dates back 30 years, but the performances reissued here remain among the front runners: a worthy addition to the Philips 50 series of ‘great recordings’.

The key is Davis’s ability to concentrate on the inner meaning of the music, rather than its outward effects. In the Grande messe des morts, conductors as various as Maazel, Levine and Ozawa have failed to see any more than generalised beauty and grandeur, but Davis is always alive to the specific emotion of the moment, whether it is the pleading of the ‘Quaerens me’ or the angular pain of the ‘Lacrymosa’. His chorus is stretched, especially in the underweight tenor section (Berlioz prescribes 60 tenors, adding helpfully that the numbers may be doubled or tripled if space permits) and Ronald Dowd is not entirely comfortable in the solo part of the ‘Sanctus’. But in all other respects this is a high-quality performance of vision and imagination.

Recorded a few months earlier in 1969, the splendid Te Deum is given a performance of comparable virtues. A shame the recording details do not state the exact location, when the venue is an important player on its own account in these grand Berlioz choral works, but Philips’s natural sound quality stands up well to the recent competition

-- Gramophone

More reviews:


Hector Berlioz (11 December 1803 – 8 March 1869) was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions "Symphonie fantastique" and "Grande messe des morts" (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his "Treatise on Instrumentation". He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. Although neglected in France for much of the 19th century, the music of Berlioz has often been cited as extremely influential in the development of the symphonic form, instrumentation, and the depiction in music of programmatic and literary ideas.


Colin Davis (25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013) was an English conductor who known for his association with the London Symphony Orchestra, having first conducted it in 1959. His repertoire was broad, but among the composers with whom he was particularly associated were Mozart, Berlioz, Elgar, Sibelius, Stravinsky and Tippett. He made his first gramophone recordings in 1958, and his discography over the next five decades was extensive, numbering over 300, with a large number of studio recordings for Philips Records and a substantial catalogue of live recordings for the LSO's own label.


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