Gary Bertini / Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust

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Called a légende dramatique, Hector Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust is something of a hybrid between oratorio and opera, intended to be performed as a concert work without staging, but it is continuously flowing in its structure, not unlike a music drama. Gary Bertini's live 1996 performance with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra emphasizes this connected narrative feeling, so listening to this double-disc from Helicon may seem very much like hearing an operatic performance. Certainly the confident and theatrical singing of tenor David Kuebler as Faust, baritone Franz Grundheber as Méphistophélès, mezzo-soprano Beatrice Uria-Monzon as Marguerite, and bass Denis Sedov as Brander give the piece a special presentational quality, aided by their distinct placement in the stereo sound space. For the most part, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra pulls back to allow the singers to be heard properly, but it is fully capable of rising to explosive volume in tutti passages, such as the famous Rákóczy March. The Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir, Cluj, is somewhat recessed in this recording, which makes its sound a little indistinct and hazy, in stark contrast to the well-recorded soloists. There are some incidental audience noises that are distracting, and Bertini's occasional humming in lyrical passages is unfortunate, but this is a fairly engaging performance that's worth hearing if a clean studio recording is unavailable. The filler selection is the Suite No. 2 from Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, which features the Israel Chamber Choir in a 1974 performance. The digital reproduction of the Berlioz is reasonably good for its time, but the analog recording of the Ravel is a bit fuzzy and unappealing.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La damnation de Faust, Op. 24
1 5:36
2 4:05
3 4:22
4 4:10
5 5:14
6 1:18
7 2:16
8 2:27
9 3:40
10 1:10
11 1:22
12 2:23
13 2:29
14 5:46
15 2:20
16 1:16
17 4:08
18 0:58
19 4:45
20 1:01
21 2:52
22 4:33

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La damnation de Faust, Op. 24
1 1:49
2 6:23
3 2:07
4 5:01
5 4:27
6 8:06
7 1:47
8 4:13
9 3:22
10 3:33
11 3:50
12 1:30
13 5:00
Daphnis et Chloé, ballet music
14 22:18
blue highlight denotes track pick