Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cambreling strides to an immediate place among the first rank of Eminent Berliozians for taking the composer at his word with a divinatory balance of élan against felicity of detail. One need hear no more than the too often hustled Part I of Roméo et Juliette to feel the grasp of a master hand. Blasé postmoderns all, we know both the story and the innumerable riffs on it, and may find the assertion of Shakespeare as an article of romantic faith more than a little quaint. Hence, unless the vocalists are delivering a star turn, audience and performers alike are apt to feel a bit impatient as Berlioz prompts the mind's eye—and ear—for what follows. Yet, after the crisply articulated (rather than frantic) fugal tumult has been quieted by commanding (rather than hysterical) fanfares, and the chorus begins to unfold the age-old story with crystalline clarity of diction, one is caught by the absolute Tightness of his design—musically and dramatically—and follows the narrative as if hearing it for the first time. Likewise, when words give way to music, the fête is neither plodding nor spangled in fast-forward tinsel, but given in a just tempo combining brilliance with credibility as dance upon which the narrative turns flicker and flash. The climax, too, is the more powerful for having been held in reserve. And that's to say that Cambreling obviously loves this tale, relishes its twists, and offers it to us with the spellbinding mien of the born raconteur. Thus one is led to anticipate a revelatory account of the great love scene—and it does not disappoint. The letdown comes with Peter Lika's barely adequate Père Laurence, whose vibrato-laden whining lacks the requisite presence to credibly unite the warring clans. And that's a pity, for the rest is ringing gold. And that applies a fortiori to the alternately blazing and radiant account of Messiaen's L'Ascension, in which Cambreling and his forces are hieratically hand-in-glove. The sound is immediate and transparently detailed within a spacious aural frame. Text and notes are given in the now-standard four languages. Urged upon you anyway, despite a single large smudge upon this well-nigh perfect production.
-- Adrian Corleonis, FANFARE [3/2001]