Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Te Deum (1849-50) (complete score) [57:40]
Marie-Claire Alain (organ of Madeleine, Paris)
Choeur de l’Orchestre de Paris
Choeur d’enfants de l’Union Européenne et Maîtrise d’Antony
Orchestre de Paris/John Nelson
rec. 19-20 February 2000 at the Salle de la Mutualité, Paris VIRGIN CLASSICS
What a magnificent
work is Berlioz’s Te Deum, and what a tremendous impact
it makes in live performance. I remember being thrilled and
incredibly moved when hearing it some years ago at London’s
Festival Hall where the huge forces of the massive double augmented
choir and orchestra spilled out significantly into the auditorium.
It is surprising that there have been relatively few recordings
of this Te Deum - possibly because of the cost involved
in the recruitment and staging of such large forces? Of the
few recordings made; the most memorable, for me, is the venerable
Beecham Philips 1953/54 mono recording with tenor, Alexander
Young and a robust organ part by Denis Vaughan - the original
LP recording reissued, none too successfully, to my ears, on
CD as Sony SMK87964.
cannot quite match the immediacy and the emotional impact of
that spine-tingling Beecham performance. Beecham’s crisp reading
had authority and great dramatic tension; his wonderfully measured
terracing of the work’s colossal climaxes is missing, so too
are the powerful dynamics of the full-blooded Philips recording,
the floor-juddering bass and the ringing brass salvos that
I remember from the original 10-inch Philips LP - diminished,
I feel, in the CD transfer. It has to be said though that the
expansive Virgin digital stereo sound is very good and it obviously
reveals more detail. Nelson’s reading includes the two optional
pieces that Berlioz created especially as victory celebrations:
the Prélude, using one of the work’s main themes and inserted
between the ‘Tibi omnes’ and the ‘Dignare’, and a colourful
and imposing march ‘for the presentation of the colours’, again
relating to a Te Deum theme at the close of the work.
Alagna in the prayer ‘Te ergo quaesumus’ is imaginative and
pliantly expressive in his supplication. Alexander Young on
the Beecham set was equally inspired. He had authority, ardour
and clarity of diction. The grand Cavaillé-Coll organ of the
Madeleine blends well with the ensemble and organist, Marie-Claire
Alain’s reading is nicely emphatic. On the whole, the Paris
choir acquit themselves well with the exception of an occasional
tendency to shrillness.
modern Berlioz Te Deum alternatives are: Claudio Abbado’s
outstanding 1982 DG recording (410 696-2) dynamic and dignified;
and the equally impressive Colin Davis version recorded by
Philips in 1969 and transferred to CD coupled with Berlioz’s
magnificent Requiem as Philips 464 689-2.
A small gripe about
the recording under review: it would have been helpful if Virgin/EMI
had included the text of the Te Deum!
A good reading
of Berlioz’s magisterial Te Deum which has the appeal
of Alagna - but it faces fierce competition.
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