One of the most grown-up review sites around

51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti

Bax Piano Music

Guillaume LEKEU


Superior performance

Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem Thielemann

Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital

Arnold Bax
Be converted

this terrific disc

John Buckley
one of my major discoveries

François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3


Bryden Thomson


Vaughan Williams Concertos

RVW Orchestral


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Le Roi David
Christophe Balissat – Narrator
Athena Poullos – Witch of Endor (actress)
Lucie Chartin (sop)
Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo)
Thomas Walker (tenor)
Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Daniel Reuss
rec. Studio OSR, Geneva, September 2016
MIRARE MIR318 [71:37]

Honegger conceived Le Roi David as an oratorio but he called it a “symphonic psalm.” Telling the story of the life of King David in three very condensed parts, its choral movements are mostly versions of Biblical Psalms, so the subheading is pertinent. After the 1921 premiere, however, he provided a narration to link the different sections, and it is that version that we have here.

There is an intentional strangeness to much of Honegger’s scoring. Using only small instrumental forces, and dominated by winds, he creates an airy sound world that is probably meant to evoke the music of the ancient Middle East. We’ll never know how successful he was, but I was often put in mind of Berlioz’s similar attempts in Les Troyens, and the effect is pretty convincing.

This recording is very good, too. A lot of that comes from the well-judged acoustic. The small number of musicians and the (fairly) small chorus need a close acoustic to make it work – they’d be lost in the Barbican – and the OSR’s studio does the job very well, bringing them close up to your ear, so that Honegger’s effects are heard clearly but unobtrusively. Daniel Reuss embraces the strangeness of the piece, too. He doesn’t try to smooth it out, but revels in the odd contrasts of textures, which is the correct approach. Listen to the way the March of the Philistines (track 13) leers all over the place, for example, and smile as you do so.

Narrator Christophe Balissat has a lush French voice to lose yourself in, and his swimmable tones suit the piece well, I thought. True, he is put in the shade by the hyperactive Witch of Endor, who you wish was on the scene for longer, but he’s still pretty good, and he judges the music well for the moments when he has to speak through the interludes.

The singers are good, too. Marianne Beate Kielland is pleasingly androgynous when she sings the words of David, and the seductive melismas of Lucie Chartin are bewitching, especially when she sings the words of the angel. Thomas Walker is similarly alluring, especially when he sings the words of Psalm 121 in track 21. The chorus is the mainstay of the work, however, and it is lively and engaged throughout. The intimacy of the acoustic suits them very well, and their blend with the instruments is just right, especially in the big climaxes that end each part.

Simon Thompson

Previous review: John Quinn


We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger