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BERLIOZ: Grande Messe des Morts (Gabrieli Consort and Players; Wrocław PO and Choir/McCreesh)

Cd/Dvd Reviews - Classical Music

Berlioz

Gabrieli Consort
Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Paul McCreesh
Signum SIGCD280

by Tony Way on February 29, 2012 (February 29, 2012) filed under Classical Music | Comment Now
Big-time Berlioz: an audiophile Grande Messe for the ages.

The “sonic spectacular” is back, if Paul McCreesh has his way. The veteran of so many wonderful early music extravaganzas has now parted amicably with Deutsche Grammophon after a 15-year relationship. The next phase of his artistic endeavour will see him set his own artistic agenda, underpinned by his fascination with large-scale works and historically informed performance values. The first fruits of this new phase are truly mindblowing. In 2010 McCreesh assembled some 400 players and singers in Wrocław, Poland to record the Berlioz Requiem.

Meticulously following the composer’s directions which call for, amongst other things, a chorus of at least 200, 16 timpani, 18 double basses and four additional brass groups, McCreesh has produced a recording of jaw-dropping power and sublime beauty. While the thunderous, apocalyptic vision of the Tuba mirum is absolutely awe-inspiring, much of the work is more intimate in scope, and it is in these sections that we see the composer’s mastery of musical colour.

Robert Murray might not be the most distinguished tenor to have sung the solo in the Sanctus, but at least he respects its rapt, devotional character. Mary Magdalene Church, Wrocław provides an excellent venue for this work, imparting atmospheric resonance that does not obscure the massive forces. This is a very special recording, which I doubt will be surpassed on many levels for quite some years to come.