Robin Ticciati - Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra - Berlioz: L'Enfance du Christ - The Times
06 December 2013The Times
Geoff Brown'Jesus! What a charming name!'
remarks the father of the Ishmaelite family in Part Three of Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ
. That sweetly simple line from Berlioz's own libretto entirely suits the musical mood of his 'sacred trilogy' centred on the Holy Family's flight to Egypt, completed in 1854. Here is a Berlioz score with no phalanx of trumpets, no bustling phantasmagoria, though it's certainly not short of drama or inventive orchestration. Listen to the plucked double basses early in Part One, paced to the tread of Roman soldiers mounting their night patrol. Mesmerising!
Half of the spell of that passage here stems from the vivid playing and clear recording. Past performances have already established Robin Ticciati as a sterling Berlioz conductor, and this latest Linn release, with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Radio Choir, wins him another laurel. Yet the musicians impress just as much when Berlioz's music glides along with modal inflections, radiant with a dignified restraint hard to associate with the composer of the Symphonie Fantastique. Secure in their regular recording base, the Berwaldhallen in Stockholm, the choir sing with a mellifluous purity that touches the heart, especially in the tapering dynamics of the unaccompanied final chorus.
Ticciati's best contributions to the score are his unfussy approach and steady pace - qualities easily learnt from the Berlioz conductor to top them all, Colin Davis, one of his mentors. In colouring or phrasing, nothing is overdone. Nor do the soloists get out of hand. Véronique Gens, warm and tasty as toast, gives us a Mary of flesh, blood, and supple beauty. Stephan Loges's Joseph...joins her in convincing anguish pleading for refuge in Part Three. Other roles are crisply taken by Yann Beuron (the narrator) and Alastair Miles (Herod and the Ishmaelite father).
Spare some applause for the presentation. Legible texts in a CD booklet should be commonplace, but aren't. Linn provides words we can actually read without a magnifying glass. All in all, this is a release fit for anyone's Christmas stocking.
Related LinksAlastair MilesRobin TicciatiStephan LogesSwedish Radio Symphony OrchestraVeronique GensYann BeuronBerlioz: L'enfance du Christ