BERLIOZ GRANDE MESSE DES MORTES: Tødenes / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra & Choirs / Gardner (Chandos CHSA 5219) ***

A successful performance of Berlioz' Requiem Mass depends on getting the huge forces properly positioned in the right acoustic. In this live performance, recorded at the orchestra's Grieghallen home, they were – but as a recording for listening in hi-fi at home it doesn't work. The efforts of the splendid orchestra and conductor Edward Gardner, an adept at choral works, is vitiated by the production team who captured the acoustic space but not the work's in-your-face impact. The rocketing strings and thunderous timpani in the Dies irae, spine-tingling moments in Levine (DG) and Previn's (EMI) recordings, are muted here, even when the disc is played at very high volume. In the Sanctustenor Bror Magnus Tødenes sounds about a mile away. The recording works best in the gentle and tender choral passages, the four choirs are excellent, but a Requiem without the audible grandeur, sublimity, and occasional bombast, isn't genuine Berlioz.

Norman Stinchcombe

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