Berlioz Requiem Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

An impressive SACD of a live performance...

Andrew McGregor 2006

'If I were forced to burn all my life's work with the exception of a single score, I would plead for the Requiem to be spared', wrote Berlioz thirty years after hed finished his great 'Mass of the Dead'.

It's a theatrical vision of the Day of Judgement, with four brass groups firing fanfares around the hall, while a vast orchestra, chorus and percussion section (including a thunderous eight pairs of timpani) do their best to convince us that Berlioz's 'Symphonie fantastique' has just collided with a premonition of Verdi's heaven-storming 'Requiem'.

If you're expecting it all to be breathlessly exciting, you may find yourself scratching your head in disbelief. Norrington's approach is pensive, sober and funereal-but it's so well paced that the sense of inevitability underlines man's mortality, and the outbursts when they do come are more effective for their comparative restraint.

The recording is impressive, particularly off the surround layer of the SACD; and tenor Toby Spence is a radiantly ethereal presence in the 'Sanctus'.

A profoundly thoughtful Berlioz 'Requiem', then, from Norrington and his Stuttgart team, a reminder that the first performance was in church, not on a concert hall stage.

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