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Berlioz: Requiem / Colin Davis, Dowd, London So

Release Date: 03/13/2007 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 000724902   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Ronald Dowd
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony ChorusWandsworth School Boys' Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Emphatically not an issue for the 'small is beautiful' lobby, but one likely to be seized on eagerly by all CD-owning lovers of Berlioz at his most monumental. They may already have the corresponding LPs, but these colossal works benefit enormously from the extra clarity and aural spaciousness of the new format. So far as the Symphonie funebre et triomphale (written to commemorate the dead of the 1830 Revolution) is concerned, Davis has the field to himself. I clearly remember the first occasion, years ago, on which the BBC mounted a public performance of this work: the sonority of the huge wind-band (including, apparently, every clarinettist in the Home Counties) was so massive that the orchestral strings' vigorous bow-strokes were totally Read more inaudible, and the chorus imported for the peroration might just as well have been so many goldfish. Nothing of the sort here: the Philips engineers have done splendidly in securing definition and a satisfying balance of forces throughout, aiding the impressive breadth of Davis's interpretation. The solemn sweep of his funeral march, with its thunderous irruptions, and the grandiose brass chords introducing the solo trombone's oration, are indeed (as was Berlioz's intention, stated in his Memoirs) ''awe-inspiring''.

For the Requiem an alternative recording exists, and here some careful weighing-up of the choices is needed. Robert Shaw has the advantage of a superior, and apparently larger, chorus—one, moreover, that is not allowed to sing ''dona-reis''—with a conspicuously more assured male section; but comparison of the a capella ''Quaerens me'' reveals that under Davis's direction there is much more 'meaningful' singing; the fugue of his Hosanna, too, has more character. On the other hand, Shaw's tenor John Aler is more French in style and more at ease in the high tessitura of the Sanctus than Ronald Dowd, whose B flats are too effortful. In reviewing the Telarc issue I spoke of its stunning recording of the great climaxes, and a re-hearing only confirms their sensational impact; but the Philips version is not far behind at cataclysmic moments, and Davis makes more of Berlioz's coups de theatre such as the shattering B flat chord near the end of the Lacrymosa. In fact, throughout the Requiem Davis's intensity, sense of drama and insight into detail constantly make points that Shaw underplays: so the coupling of these two works makes this a particularly attractive proposition.

-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone [4/1986]
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Works on This Recording

Grande messe des morts, Op. 5 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Ronald Dowd (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; France 
Language: Latin 
Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Ronald Dowd (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; France 
Language: French 

Sound Samples

Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 1. Requiem - Kyrie
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 2a. Dies Irae
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 2b. Tuba mirum
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 3. Quid sum miser
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 4. Rex tremendae
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 5. Quaerens me
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 6. Lacrymosa
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 7. Domine Jesu Christe
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 8. Hostias
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 9. Sanctus
Requiem, Op.5 (Grande Messe des Morts): 10. Agnus Dei
Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op.15: 1. Marche funèbre (Moderato un poco lento)
Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op.15: 2. Oraison funèbre (Adagio non tanto - Andantino un poco lento e sostenuto)
Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op.15: 3. Apothéose (Allegro non troppo e pomposo)

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