Michael Spyres / John Nelson

Hector Berlioz: Requiem (Grand Messe des Morts)

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Adding to his growing output of Berlioz recordings for Erato, John Nelson leads the Philharmonia Orchestra in a compelling and sensitive performance of the Requiem (Grande Messe des morts), recorded in London's St. Paul's Cathedral in vibrant sound with magnificent acoustics. The fame of the Requiem rests largely on the effectiveness of the "Tuba Mirum" section of the "Dies Irae," where Berlioz calls for four antiphonal brass ensembles stationed at the four corners of the auditorium, representing the "Last Judgment," and if their ricocheting fanfares aren't loud enough to raise the dead, the percussion section of sixteen timpani, two bass drums, and four tam-tams may well raise one's neck hairs. Yet the bulk of Berlioz's 1837 masterpiece is considerably subdued and reflective in mood, and the orchestra serves mostly as an accompaniment to the London Philharmonic Choir and the Philharmonia Chorus, which are fully audible at soft dynamics and the Latin text is clearly articulated. Tenor Michael Spyres delivers the rapturous solo in the "Sanctus," seemingly floating above the women's voices in Berlioz's remarkably transparent textures. The performance was recorded on March 8, 2019, and the concert video is provided on a bonus DVD.

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