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Berlioz: Requiem

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Sept. 28 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Canada
  • ASIN: B0002M5T6G
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #226,675 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Introitus: Requiem And Kyrie
2. Dies Irae
3. Quid Sum Miser
4. Rex Tremendae
5. Quaerens Me
6. Lacrymosa
7. Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe
8. Hostias
9. Sanctus
10. Agnus Dei

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't make it... Nov. 12 2007
By Samuel Stephens - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Don't be fooled by my two-star rating. Read the following review, and you will see that I know what I am talking about.

For many reasons, I have the right to be biased in favor of this recording. For one, my sister attended the performance live, and loved it. Secondly, the Atlanta Orchestra and Chorus are a staple favorite of mine.

But there are HUGE problems. Being the Berlioz fanatic that I am, I found this CD to be flat as flat can get. The dies irae section: what happened to the enourmous eruption of the four brass choirs? It's as if the engineers turned down the volume on the master-track. Or another theory is that Spano just didn't have it in him to bring it off the right way. Once you've compared this version to, say, Colin Davis' (Philips/LSO...rereleased in The Originals), you will see exactly what I mean. You'd think Spano had an allergic reaction to the powerful sections in Berlioz's "Grande messe des mortes".

Not all of this performance is lost, but enough of it is so that there is very little reason to get it. It lacks vigour, bigness, strength, and that touch of fantasy that all of Berlioz's works require.

If the fact that this is a single disc attracts you, let me assure you: it is a mistake to use that as a judgement. The best versions are going to be longer for very good reason. But if you insist on single discs: Beecham's is well-respected, and he was a true Berlioz champion.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good bet (with reservations) Nov. 17 2004
By Andrew Mayzak - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I researched long and hard before buying this recording. It was not listed in any of the CD buying guides I looked through and it had not been reviewed by anyone on Amazon yet. So I downloaded tracks from various recordings and compared them. I bought this one because it is the most well-rounded performance and also has the best sound quality.

The Atlanta Symphony is brassy and full of depth, providing a solid footing with well-tuned timpanis that rumble without individual drumbeats sticking out. The brass section is focused and packs an incredible punch, especially in the Dies Irae. The strings play in unison very well and I have yet to hear any stray notes.

The Atlanta Symphony Chorus is equally impressive, possessing an extremely wide range of dynamic colors that allow them to cut through the orchestra, even on the lowest notes. Their singing is precise, clear, and impassioned. Diction is excellent, but not overpowering.

Frank Lopardo's tenor might not suit everyone, but he sounds far away and "heavenly" enough to make the Sanctus believable and sincere. His singing is less passionate than it is other-worldly. Purely a matter of taste...

Spano keeps both the orchestra and the chorus in perfect line with one another, stretching from glass-shattering fortes to the most ethereal of pianissimos. Spano connects the entire work with a deep fluidity while also confining the Requiem to one CD, a welcome break from other recordings which push the 90 minute line.

I usually don't like Telarc's blaring bass and brass, but for once the engineers nailed it. The sound quality is digitally recorded and first rate; not a trace of static, hiss, crackles, or background noise. High notes do not splat, low notes are not overpowering, and the intensity of the music actually pushed my speakers to their limits (buy some big speakers to fully experience this recording... it will be money well spent). The SACD version when played on a surround sound system is nothing short of INCREDIBLE.

There are valid reasons to prefer other recordings (Sir Colin Davis' or Robert Shaw's are both excellent recordings), but since Berlioz's Requiem was meant to be LOUD, this is the only performance I have listened to so far that one can crank the volume up on and not lose sound quality. Add to that the bonus of the performance being excellent and you have a great modern recording of an epic work.

UPDATE July 2015: I took this down to 4 stars. 10 years after I bought it, Spano's reading of the Berlioz Requiem has aged well. His tempi are appropriately brisk for 1837 and the Atlanta forces are in top form. However, having listened to newer recordings, I feel Telarc's sonics are too bass heavy. This lends a mushy sound to the middle and high ranges, marring the complex orchestrations which are audible on other albums. This is still a good recording, particularly if you are using small speakers or earbuds. Otherwise, opt for the McCreesh or Norrington.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Efficient and detailed, but doesn't touch the heart of the piece Dec 17 2007
By MartinP - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm afraid I must concur with the lukewarm overall rating this item received until now. The playing is fine, the singing excellent, yet things do not come together in a way that reaches the core of this magnificent, dark piece. It's all just too polished and comfortable for that, much like the Ozawa Boston version, though this one at least has more energy and variety than that monochrome reading. Also, the singing of Frank Lopardo is not nearly as awful as that of some of his colleagues on other issues.

A common misconception plaguing this piece (and repeated in a review below) is that the Berlioz Requiem is all about producing lots of noise. But most of this work is quiet, inward-looking and remarkably spare (including a Quaerens Me for unaccompanied chorus) . Rarely, in the many contemplative passages, does one feel that Spano and his team are truly in touch with the message, and the one-disc format alone seems proof that contemplation is not their forte. The earlier Shaw with the same forces is much to be preferred.

Soundwise too this disc offers a strangely mixed experience. Clearly intended as a sonic spectacular, it doesn't really deliver the goods. The Dies Irae is efficient rather than overwhelming, though the spatial layout is effectively conferred even in normal stereo. But the drums lack power and definition, and there is no sense of menace when the entry of the fourth brass group uproots the triumphant fanfares by introducing a seventh chord. Also, I was bothered by a faint but persistent electrical background hum which became rather annoying when listening through headphones.

On the plus side, the recording is very detailed, and therefore useful for study purposes. But most of us will want this music for other than academic ends. If so, moving and memorable alternatives are available from Norrington (Hännsler), De Billy (Oehms - but forget the Sanctus), or Dutoit (Decca). Davis too is generally recommended, though personally I do not share the high regard in which it seems to be held. Unfortunately for all lovers of this greatest of all Requiems, the definitive recording of it (if such a thing exists at all...) has yet to be made. Maybe a dedicated period performance under Gardiner might do the trick...?
5.0 out of 5 stars A choice recording of a major Berlioz composition Oct. 10 2015
By Robert Malone - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I find this particular recording to be absolutely lovely; the (actually) few loud, brassy passages done to a fury, but the many quiet parts skillfully crafted and properly solemn. The total balance of this recording, both musically and sonically, is superb. I must admit that I am not a particular fan of much of the audio presented by Telarc, and the somewhat "boomy" characteristics found on this disc are not an exception to that; but, otherwise, and I can find no real fault with any aspect of this recording.

There is no lack of choice in selection for splendid performances of this music. Among the most famous are those conducted by Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for RCA, or Colin Davis on Philips (both would leave later versions of the music which would not quite measure up to their earlier renditions). My favorite of them all will remain the Munch (Boston first choice, the Bavarian on DG not too far behind). An early live Beecham is available which is, arguably, about the finest performance to be had. Anyone picking up the Decca set featuring Charles Dutoit in Montreal will also be getting a good one. A later one in Boston conducted by Ozawa is also excellent in the music department, but there have been comments made elsewhere about something being a little off on the audio controls; I do not notice this much on my personal disc, but I think the orchestra/chorus balance heard on the Spano is better. By the way, as a bonus, both Ozawa and Spano take their tempi somewhat brisker than many, thereby getting everything onto one CD -- actually, I like this; I find the much slower conducting of Davis and some others in this work to be distracting. There was an earlier working of this music also made for Telarc, and also with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, which was conducted by Robert Shaw; that one is often regarded as another high point and should be considered by one looking for a recording of this music (that one was made in the early 1980's; this newer Atlanta version comes from Nov. 2003).

This version from Spano, therefore, has a lot of lofty competition, but I regard it highly and it holds its own.

Based on his own comments, it appears that the Requiem (also known as "Grand Messe des morts", composed in 1837) was Berlioz's personal favorite of everything he wrote (question on the side: why is it that that non-believers tend to appreciate and produce such wonderful religious music?) The work is, unfortunately, too often regarded as simply a loud, blaring, trump-of-doom composition. Now, it is that, but only in a few places; for the most part, however, it consists of some of the most beautiful, peaceful writing that Berlioz would ever produce, and anyone with even a remote interest in Berlioz should acquaint themselves here with some of the best he ever did.
5.0 out of 5 stars See Above May 22 2014
By Hezekiah Zeiber - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Again why am I required to duplicate the same comments as I have stated before in previous reviews on classical music