Colin Davis’s 1969 recording remains a landmark event, the first time this grand opera of Meyerbeerian length, spectacular éclat and Wagnerian artistic ambition had found its way complete onto LP. It effectively changed views about Berlioz the opera composer and orchestral genius and has for many remained the yardstick by which all later performances have been judged. Although studio recorded, it was based on the Covent Garden casting of the day – Jon Vickers’s heroic Aeneas and Josephine Veasey’s voluptuous Dido – with a couple of Frenchmen to boost the ranks of lesser Trojans and Carthaginians…
This is a delightful recording from a conductor more closely allied than any other to Berlioz's music. With Berlioz the devil is always in the detail; he was an extraordinary orchestrator and capable of writing unidiomatically for instruments–especially the woodwinds–in order to get exactly the sound he wanted. Or rather, sounds, for the whole texture is made up of many layers. Davis understands this as if by instinct, and draws some beautiful playing from the instrumentalists without ever losing sight of the whole picture. It has been said that the French style of phrasing is all foreplay and no climax: the singers bring this teasing quality to their long, flowing lines but with a charmingly English home-counties blush too. Elsie Moris's light tone is a perfect match for Peter Pears' cool, silvery voice in this respect - and the choir too makes a good full sound without ever getting too heavy. The two discs also include some other gems from the pen of this most idiosyncratic of composers.
This particular recording has been a favourite of mine since its initial release nearly 30 years ago. Stephen Kovacevich (or Bishop-Kovacevich. if you prefer) appeals as 1 of those pianists whose playing is rather forthright & precise, giving us here a rather lyrical presentation of the concerti full of grace & good demeanor. A little on the light side compared to those who pound out their Beethovens some would think.
This recording of one of Haydn’s greatest masterpieces is not to be missed. Those who are familiar with Colin Davis’s recordings of the Haydn London Symphonies, made over 30 years ago with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, will know that he has a special affection for this composer’s music and unfailingly communicates his love of it to both performers and listeners alike. Surprisingly this would appear to be the first time that he has recorded Haydn’s Creation, but it has been worth the wait.
Best of 2007 Classical CDs ‘This thrilling performance was given in the Barbican last May when Sir Colin excelled himself in the power & nobility of his interpretation, with the LSO in terrific form, & the American soprano Christine Brewer sang with gleaming white-hot tone as Leonore. The final paean of joy at liberation is overwhelming. 1st-class recording quality.
With an outstanding solo quartet and a great chorus and orchestra, Davis leads a sterling performance that challenges the supremacy of his 1966 Philips recording of Messiah. Davis leads a dramatic performance; the famous "Hallelujah" chorus appropriately grand, the final "Amen" bristling with brazen energy, both sung with extraordinary tonal coloring and precise articulation by the chorus, which also shines in a lithe "He shall purify" and a vividly virtuoso "For unto us a child is born." Soprano Susan Gritton's solos are a delight, whether in the measured "Behold, a virgin shall conceive" or her exuberant "Rejoice greatly." The vocal purity of her "I know my redeemer liveth" makes this track a highlight. Alto Sara Mingardo's darker tones are especially moving in her arias and dramatic in "He was despised."
Recorded in the mid-1970s with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, this classic cycle of symphonies and tone poems firmly established Sir Colin Davis's reputation as one the greatest Sibelius interpreters. Nearly forty years on and the cycle remains as grand and dynamic as ever.
Elgar’s Violin Concerto has a certain mystique about it independent of the knee-jerk obeisance it has received in the British press. It probably is the longest and most difficult of all Romantic violin concertos, requiring not just great technical facility but great concentration from the soloist and a real partnership of equals with the orchestra. And like all of Elgar’s large orchestral works, it is extremely episodic in construction and liable to fall apart if not handled with a compelling sense of the long line. In reviewing the score while listening to this excellent performance, I was struck by just how fussy Elgar’s indications often are: the constant accelerandos and ritards, and the minute (and impractical) dynamic indications that ask more questions than they sometimes answer. No version, least of all the composer’s own, even attempts to realize them all: it would be impossible without italicizing and sectionalizing the work to death.