Robin Ticciati - Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra - Berlioz: L'Enfance du Christ - The Arts Desk

Berlioz's delicate, intimate Nativity setting is a joy. One of its many surprises is the lucid scoring...There are so many aural delights, my favourite being the offstage chorus of angels heard at the close of each of the work's three sections. It's an elusive, haunting sound, and hard to do justice to in a recording. Linn's engineers achieve wonders here. Huge credit is also due to conductor Robin Ticciati, who knows how to make the orchestral colours lucid and transparent, whilst giving the rhythms plenty of lift. As with Layton's Bach, you'll be compelled to listen to this two disc set in one go.

Yann Beuron's sung narration is exemplary, never better than in the extended introduction to Part Three. I also enjoyed Stephan
Loges's weary-sounding Joseph, vainly trying to secure last-minute accommodation - those of you who've endured school Christmas plays this week will enjoy hearing Berlioz making over-familiar events sound fresh. Alastair Miles gives us a warm, engaging Father of the Family and Véronique Gens's Marie is clear-sounding and youthful. Near the close of the third part there's an extended trio for two flutes and harp. It's unexpected, but magical. Ticciati catches to perfection the bewitching stillness of the Épilogue, closing with etherial, distant cries of Amen. Glorious music, impeccably performed and magnificently recorded.

The Arts Desk
14 December 2013