Bror Magnus Tødenes / Edward Gardner

Berlioz: Grande Messe des Mortes

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This live performance of the Berlioz Requiem, Op. 5, with the Bergen Philharmonic was recorded live at the Grieg Hall in Bergen, Norway in 2018; it was one of a half-dozen recordings released that year with Edward Gardner as conductor. The Grieg Hall is a rather pale substitute for Les Invalides, where Berlioz led the original performance (after the baffled original conductor stepped down from the podium to take some snuff); nor do the massed Norwegian and English choirs here have quite the volume necessary to stand up to the work's four brass groups, dispersed around the auditorium. You might instead profitably take the performance on its own terms: this is not a thundering heavy metal Berlioz Requiem, but a meditative one in which the mighty brass perorations have a ritual quality. Sample the "Quaerens me," or the final "Agnus dei," where Gardner and his singers are fully in sync, and the music takes on the uplift of Berlioz's lyrical mode at its best. As for the "Tuba mirum" in the "Dies irae" and the other full-strength passages, you may take your choice, but the clarity of the engineering might well have been improved if they'd had more time.

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