Karen Cargill / Bryan Hymel / Simon Rattle / London Symphony Orchestra

Berlioz: La damnation de Faust

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AllMusic Review by

The London Symphony Orchestra has long expertise with the music of Berlioz, ever since the glory days of conductor Sir Colin Davis. The big cantata La Damnation de Faust, a dramatization of Goethe's poem, is firmly in their wheelhouse; they excel in both the work's sweeping emotional range and in its huge variety of orchestral effects. Here, in a live performance led by the orchestra's new conductor Sir Simon Rattle, returning to England after leaving so acrimoniously years ago, the orchestra's players are uniformly confident, even given the last-minute substitution of baritone Christopher Purves for the planned Gerald Finley in the meaty role of Mephistopheles. You'd know that Purves was not a native French speaker, but he is vigorous in the role and stands up to the power of Scots mezzo soprano Karen Cargill as Marguerite. The orchestra is uniformly strong, but for a prime example of the commitment Rattle promises to inspire, check out the sections involving one of the choral groups, perhaps the big "Amen" fugue of the chorus of drinkers. No fewer than five choruses, of adults and children, are involved, and the degree to which all are woven into Rattle's propulsive, intense concept suggests fine things to come in the large works that the conductor presumably has carte blanche to undertake. The consistency achieved by the engineers of the orchestra's LSO Live recording series also works in the release's favor.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La damnation de Faust
1 05:35
2 04:24
3 04:53
4 04:50
5 05:29
6 01:13
7 02:26
8 02:35
9 02:01
10 01:30
11 01:19
12 01:30
13 02:27
14 02:20
15 05:55
16 02:34
17 01:13
18 04:26

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La damnation de Faust
1 01:02
2 05:11
3 01:05
4 02:53
5 05:20
6 01:52
7 05:44
8 02:46
9 05:17
10 04:47
11 08:18
12 02:13
13 04:55
14 03:29
15 03:33
16 04:03
17 01:15
18 05:27
blue highlight denotes track pick