L'Enfance du Christ op.25
Susan Graham (Mary), Francois Le Roux (Joseph), John Mark Ainsley (Narrator),
Philip Cokorinos (Herod), Andrew Wentzel (The Father), Gordon Getz (Centurion)
and Marc Belleau (Polydorus).
Sara la Baigneuse op 11 (triple chorus and
Helene (from 9 Melodies op.2 No. 2) for male chorus and
La Belle Voyageuse mezzo soprano and
Quartetto e coro dei maggi Choir
Chant sacre tenor solo, choir and orchestra
Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Choir - Charles
DECCA 458 915-2
[119.44] recorded digitally in 1993 in Eglise St. Eustache,
This recording of Berlioz's sacred trilogy has languished in Decca's vaults
since 1995 and has only now surfaced to see the light of day. Previous releases
in Dutoit's Berlioz series for Decca have sometimes been received with mixed
feelings with some of the issues receiving quite luke-warm notices. This
may be the reason for the current issue being held back but it is not in
any way relevant.
I am happy to say that here we have an issue which can take on the best of
the opposition and come out of the comparison with flying colours. Decca
has given Dutoit another one of its superb recordings in its favourite Montreal
location, and adding to this an excellent selection of soloists and a choir
and orchestra on top form, you can't go wrong.
The main problem with some of Dutoit's earlier issues in this series is an
occasional feeling of non commitment allied to a low voltage playing style.
L'Enfance du Christ is a work at the opposite end of the spectrum to this
idea and so any concern we might have just does not surface. The playing
of the orchestra is lustrous and highly accurate and the top drawer Decca
recording does much to enhance this effect.
One of the features of previous vocal sets has been Dutoit's preference for
French singers taking all parts. This issue does not follow this trend, with
the lead parts being taken by British, American, German, as well as a small
number of French singers. I am afraid I do not feel aggrieved as some reviewers
do, if the vocal artists are not native to the nationality of the work, so
I have enjoyed the performances of all the current cast, without exception.
We have here the opportunity to experience the gentle unfolding of the story
of Christ's childhood without a single raw sound or voice. This issue, whilst
not necessarily displacing the Davis version on Philips with Janet Baker,
or indeed the earlier version with April Cantelo also on Decca, now sweeps
the board in terms of recording quality and is not compromised artistically
If this were not enough, Decca also includes five short vocal pieces to
supplement the set for various combinations of choir, soloists and orchestra
which enhance this issue greatly. I have spent some time listening to this
set and am happy to report that it has given nothing but pleasure.