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The Royal Edition - Berlioz: Requiem, Etc / Bernstein


Release Date: 12/01/2009 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 47526   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Stuart BurrowsJennie Tourel
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National OrchestraFrench National Radio ChorusNew York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Bernstein finds the true atmosphere of grandeur, solemn and celebratory, as is not merely appropriate but essential for the Requiem.

Bernstein's gift for excitement on the grandest possible scale and for the mastering of vast, complex choral and orchestral resources would seem ideally attuned to the demands of Berlioz's Requiem. It is often with works on the largest physical scale, moreover, that his finest powers of interpretation are released, as will be remembered by all who were at his performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony in the Albert Hall in 1965. His approach to the Requiem on these records is solemn and celebratory, as is not merely appropriate but essential for the nature of music making an enormous public
Read more act of civic worship. Ceremonial grief struggles with tragic despair, in a context of grand drama. Bernstein allows the music to find its own splendour: often in the past given to forcing the last jot of excitement out of pieces, come what may, he is here almost relaxed, shaping the paragraph rather than underlining every word or peppering the score with exclamation marks. He finds the true atmosphere of grandeur, exhorting the bands to a tremendous charge of energy in the "Tuba mirum"; but this is most beautifully related to the sense of weariness, of disillusion almost, that seems to run in the music together with the stated drama. Although the liturgy is followed, the subject is also despair at the failure of the July Revolution, and the waste of young lives. It is a pity that the recording does not rise to the quality of Bernstein's intelligent response: the bands are not very clear, nor well differentiated, and the choral sound emerging from them is forced and drab.

For the most part, the chorus is excellent, with a clean, cutting tone in the tenors and a group of basses whose lightness as well as strength serves the music well in keeping textures alive and clear. In the "Sanctus", there is some beautiful singing from Stuart Burrows, spinning a smooth line and poised with accurate ear in relationship to the accompaniment. His melodic line is an example to the chorus in the "Lacrimosa": having opened with a superb, bitter snap to the rhythm, Bernstein resists the grace of the ensuing melody. One can see his point: this is not the place for elegance. But Davis manages to respond to the curve of the phrases without loss of the drama; and though Bernstein tends to take a more dispassionate view of much of the music, exhorting but not overwhelming his forces, Davis's passionate commitment and his vivid ear for detail do serve to build up the more powerful statements cumulatively. Davis also plays the "Hostias" as if breathtakingly aware of its strangeness; Bernstein is calmer, as it were no longer surprised by the once-notorious flute/trombone chords, and incidentally drawing some of the most beautiful, well-blended singing of the work from the choir at the start.

This slight sense of detachment, which is not in any way a weakening of his reading but rather essential to it, is perhaps exaggerated by a recording that sounds rather remote. But though the set is inferior to the Philips in recording, the performance is no less strong and characteristic than Davis's, offering another angle of vision on a very original masterpiece. These are two very potent, very thoughtful, very poetic performances; and though Davis has the sharper involvement and the subtler response to so much in the score, Bernstein's reading is one which no admirer of Berlioz should fail to hear.

-- Gramophone [11/1976, reviewing the original LP release of the Requiem]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Grande messe des morts, Op. 5 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Stuart Burrows (Tenor)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; France 
Date of Recording: 09/1975 
Venue:  Les Invalides, Paris 
Length: 87 Minutes 2 Secs. 
2.
La mort de Cléopâtre by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (Soprano)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1961 
Venue:  Manhattan Center, New York City 
Length: 21 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Language: French 
3.
Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Romeo alone by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1959 
Venue:  30th Street Studio, New York City 
4.
Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Love scene by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1959 
Venue:  30th Street Studio, New York City 
5.
Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Queen Mab Scherzo by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1959 
Venue:  30th Street Studio, New York City 

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