A superb reissue, formerly issued on the prestigious Denon label, of the “dramatic legend” La Damnation de Faust, written (both music and libretto) by Hector Berlioz, after the famous “Faust” of Goethe. Recorded in the late eighties of the last century, when the great Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal spent a remarkably successful and fruitful period in Frankfurt with its orchestra, resulting in several impressive symphonic cycles, notably the legendary complete Mahler Symphonies.Apart from the great artistic value of these recordings, the special one-point recording technique used by the Denon engineers is still a marvel of natural recorded sound. Wonderful soloists: Maria Ewing, Denes Gulyás, Robert Lloyd and the young Christiane Oelze. Territory: Europe only. Although little appreciated in his native France for many years, Hector Berlioz now safely resides among the giants of the 19th century’s musical scene. The composer’s vocal output is extensive and includes several operatic works; written during 1845–46, La Damnation de Faust forms the subject of this engaging 2CD release.
The work grew out of Berlioz’s encounter with Goethe, one of the great influences – together with Shakespeare – on the composer’s creativity. A hybrid composition which employs just four principal singers and a chorus, as befits a ‘concert’ setting, La Damnation de Faust is too theatrical to work in this guise – and, alas, too impractical to be staged successfully. Nevertheless it remains an intensely dramatic piece: listen out for the violent orchestral outpourings of the Hungarian March as well as the ‘Ride to Hell’, which leads to a terrible vision of Pandemonium. Residing among the composer’s most intense and thrilling music, the work features many ballet episodes and includes Marguerite’s song – one of the greatest French operatic scenes. ‘Inbal has a fine ear for Berlioz's orchestration, matched by sensitive recording, so that time and again details spring into dramatic life…a distinctive and intelligent performance… No lover of the work should miss hearing it.’ Gramophone, July 1991
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