Francophiles take note!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a recording meant to rejoice in the French spirit. Charles Dutoit leads Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Montreal Symphony Chorus, and soloists through a spectrum of works by Hector Berlioz that range from the sublime to the mundane. The juicy programming ends in a 'make the audience stand' version of Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle's 'La Marseillaise' for full chorus and orchestra!
Along the way there are 'Huit Scénes de Faust, for solo voices, chorus, orchestra & guitar' which benefit from the luxurious singing of Susan Graham, Suzanne Mentzer and some other fine vocalists. Dutoit coaxes a thoroughly French sound (!) from his forces and the result is ravishingly beautiful. Also included on this disc are lesser known works such as 'L' impériale, cantata for double chorus & orchestra', a mildly out of context excerpt from 'Les Nuits d'été' (Sur les lagunes) sung by a male (François Roux) which gives a different slant to the cycle, 'Le Chasseur danois, for baritone & piano (or orchestra)', and a lovely rendition of the ever-popular 'Plaisir d'amour' by Johann Paul Aegidius Martini effectively sung by François Roux.
It is a mixed bag but the good moments far overshadow the lesser ones. If for nothing else the collectors of Susan Graham's recordings will most assuredly want to add this CD to their collection! Grady Harp, September 05"
Berlioz's ambitious Op. 1 is well worth hearing
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Berlioz was fired up by reading Goethe's Faust in its first French translation, and the result from the 25-year-old was his Op. 1, Eight Scenes from Faust. It deals almost not at all with the events in the Damnation of Faust, which would follow 16 years later. Instead, Berlioz set various dances and poems to music for chorus and soloists (choosing a different combinaiton for each scene). Even at this stage, however, his Faust music is evocative and sounds fully like Berlioz, if somewhat simplified. Various melodies that would appear in the later Faust treatment make their first appearance here. Since the composer withdrew the work soon after publication, recorded versions are rare. Neither Munch (RCA) nor Colin Davis (Philips) included it in their extensive surveys.
A charged-up conductor like Munch could make more of this music than the somewhat phlegmatic Dutoit. But as usual, Decca gives him gorgeous sound and the choral and orhcestral forces from Montreal are expert. Of the four soloists Susan Graham is the standout; her voice in 1995 was at its freshest. Everyone else is good to very good. The remainder of this 68 min. CD, roughly half, is devoted to individual vocal pieces that Berlioz orchestrated, including one song from Les Nuits d'Ete (interesting for being sung by a baritone rather than a higher femaile voice) and Berlioz's grandiose arrangement of the Marseillaise. In all, a very satisfying detour into Berlioz's minor works, worth a listen or two."