Colin Davis

Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ

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Colin Davis, currently the grand old man of Berlioz conductors, has recorded the French romantic's L'Enfance du Christ an amazing three times: first on L'oiseau-Lyre LPs (not issued on CD), then on Philips (frequently issued on LP and CD), and now on LSO Live (issued on CD with super audio surround sound capabilities). While not perhaps the most emotional Berlioz conducer in history, Davis' more measured approach suits the more meditative L'Enfance. All three of his recordings are quite fine, but the sound quality gets slightly better with each newer edition. Those equipped for SACD multichannel replay will find the LSO Live SACD provides a significant plus in atmosphere, putting the listener into the hall with the orchestra, chorus, and soloists.

There are, however, other L'Enfance du Christs as good or better than Davis': Charles Münch's energetic and enjoyable recording on RCA and Andre Cluytens' elegant and opulent recording on EMI. Since the latter has perhaps the finest set of soloists in Victoria de los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Ernest Blanc, and Roger Soyer and comes coupled with Giulini's outstanding Chicago Symphony performance of the symphonic sections of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet, it may be many listeners' first choice. Plus, there is an interesting DVD of Münch leading a live performance from the same time as his RCA recording taped in good black and white with decent sound quality. For anyone who finds added value in straight concert videos, this one is well-worth seeing. In sum, then, Cluytens', Münch's, and any or all of Davis' L'Enfance du Christ would make a great addition to any Berlioz library.

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