Robin Ticciati - Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra - Berlioz: L'enfance du Christ - Telegraph
This absorbing performance of Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ is affecting and expressive, sung with terrific gusto by The Swedish Radio Choir.
With Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" (CKD 400) in 2012 and the coupling of "Les Nuits d'été" with "La Mort de Cléopâtre" (CKD 421) earlier this year, there was clear evidence of Robin Ticciati's affinity with markedly different facets of Berlioz's imagination.
Here Ticciati explores with equal perception the dramatic tableau that Berlioz assembled over a number of years, and which eventually had its first complete performance as "L'Enfance du Christ" in 1854.
"The Childhood of Christ", tracing the biblical story from Herod's dream, through the flight into Egypt and on to the Holy Family's sojourn in Sais, is a hybrid work. It's an oratorio, but one with an operatic impulse as well, as can be heard here with particular force in the scene between Herod and the exotic soothsayers in Part 1. The Swedish Radio Choir sings with terrific gusto at this point, with the instrumentation brilliantly defined by the orchestra and Ticciati.
But the absorbing impact of this performance lies in the fact that such gripping fervour is balanced and blended with the deliberately archaic style that Berlioz deploys elsewhere. Right from the opening bars, with those strange, harmonium-like sonorities that the woodwind produce, you have complete confidence that Ticciati understands the Berlioz hinterland.
As the piece proceeds, he negotiates its pacing, its contours, its shifts of emotional emphasis with an assured, evocative hand, the famous "Shepherds' Farewell" assuming its lyrically tender place in the overall scheme.
Alastair Miles impressively encompasses both the nervous tensions of Herod in Part 1 and the Father of the Family's sympathetic solace in Part 3. Véronique Gens and Stephan Loges are eloquently matched as Mary and Joseph, and the narrator Yann Beuron fluently and expressively establishes the context for a first-rate, affecting performance and a timely seasonal release.