BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

L’en­fance du Christ

Sasha Cooke (mezzo), An­drew Sta­ples (tenor), Rod­er­ick Wil­liams (bari­tone), Matthew Brook (bass-bari­tone); Mel­bourne Sym­phony Cho­rus & Or­ches­tra/an­drew Davis

Chan­dos CHSA 5228(2) 53:25 mins

‘Thus it came to pass that it was an in­fi­del who saved the Saviour’, sings An­drew Sta­ples in the Epi­logue of this ex­tra­or­di­nary work, mov­ing with easy grace from lu­mi­nous, mys­tic wonder to pas­sion and back again. Did Ber­lioz, him­self a cer­ti­fied in­fi­del, feel sym­pa­thy with the fa­ther of the Is­maelite fam­ily who wel­comed the ★oly Fam­ily in Egypt? Ber­lioz, re­strict­ing him­self as he does al­most through­out to a straight­for­ward har­monic lan­guage, yet wrote in that Epi­logue some of the most mov­ing mu­sic in the whole of the 19th cen­tury.

Not that this work plays it­self. Ber­lioz’s ‘more pri­vate style’, as ★ugh Mac­don­ald calls it in the liner notes, es­pouses a wide range of emo­tions, from ★erod’s de­spair to the sound of frol­ick­ing lambs and Mary’s ten­der­ness to­wards her child. ★ere giv­ing the role to Sasha Cooke, a mezzo-so­prano, rather than the usual so­prano, pays happy dividends in of­fer­ing a more ma­ter­nal tone.

But all the soloists are ex­cel­lent, and thought­ful cast­ing among the four bari­tones and bass-bari­tones has al­lot­ted the Is­maelite fa­ther to Matthew Brook, who brings just that touch of ex­tra warmth to the role. Cho­rus and or­ches­tra add fur­ther lus­tre to this su­perb en­ter­prise, in which An­drew Davis’s love for the mu­sic shines through in every bar. Roger Nichols



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