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On this new period instrument recording of “Les Nuits d’Été” and the symphony “Harold in Italy” by Hector Berlioz, from the award winning musical director Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, the featured soloists are two of the leading exponents of their art in recent years, the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the viola player Antoine Tamestit.
Marc Minkowski is one of the most important conductors to have emerged since the 1990s. Over the last two decades he has carved out a niche for himself in the lesser-known works of the French and Italian Baroque. He began his career as a bassoonist, becoming a baroque specialist during his tenure with such ensembles as Les Arts Florissants, the Clemencic Consort of Vienna, and La Chapelle Royale. After taking first prize at the first International Early Music Competition in Bruges (1984), Minkowski founded his own early instrument ensemble, Les Musiciens du Louvre, with which he has made the bulk of his recordings.
Born in Sweden, Anne Sofie von Otter’s studies began in Stockholm and continued with Vera Rozsa at London’s Guildhall before she became a principal artist of the Basel Opera from where an international career, which has now spanned more than two decades, was launched. Equally active in opera, concert, recital and recording and noted as one of the most versatile artists of her generation Anne Sofie von Otter appears regularly on the world’s major stages and boasts an unrivalled discography.
Antoine Tamestit was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist between 2004 and 2006. During this period he made several solo and concerto recordings for the radio with BBC orchestras throughout the UK, and recitals engagements, including his debut performance at London’s Wigmore Hall in October 2005. In 2008 he won the prestigious Credit Suisse award.
Hector Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Op. 16
I. Adagio (Harold in the Mountains. Scenes of Melancholy, Happiness and Joy)
II. Allegretto (March of the Pilgrims Singing the Evening Prayer)
III. Allegro Assai (Serenade of an Abruzzi Mountain-Dweller to his Mistress)
IV. Allegro Frenetico (Orgy of Brigands. Memories of Scenes Past)
Hector Berlioz: Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7
No. 1. Villanelle
No. 2. Le Spectre de la rose
No. 3. Sur les lagunes
No. 4. Absence
No. 5. Au cimetiere
No. 6. L'Ile inconnue
Hector Berlioz: La damnation de Faust, Op. 24
La damnation de Faust, Op. 24, Part III: Autrefois un roi de Thule, "The King of Thule"
The Independent on Sunday
13th November 2011
“Though the sound of Les Musiciens in full flight is a blast, the most seductive moments in Marc Minkowski's X-rated Berlioz are found in the catch of a breath or the faint purr of a pianissimo double-bass.”
24th November 2011
“the performance at times acquires the quality of chamber music. Whether that is what Berlioz, who had a weakness for huge orchestras, would have wanted is another matter, but it is a welcome change...von Otter is inevitably more coarse-grained than she was on her earlier recording of the songs with James Levine and the Berlin Philharmonic in the mid-1990s, but Minkowski folds the accompaniments around her so delicately, it seems buoyant and fresh.”
1st December 2011
“these Berlioz performances capitalise on the clarity of texture and tonality that the “period” instruments of Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble can so effectively conjure up...the glint to the orchestral sonority that Berlioz’s clever manipulation of his instrumental forces could so distinctively elicit is given an extra sparkle, limpidity and freshness.”
“Berlioz's orchestration is rendered with such clarity of definition in terms of individual and blended instrumental colours, and...the partnership between orchestra and the solo viola is on a more equal footing than can sometimes be the norm...Tamestit's viola, warm of tone and expressively malleable as it is in his hands, cuts a dash as the music's Romantic hero...von Otter's mature insight...[is] matched by the orchestra's eloquent, atmospheric, limpid support.”
“Minkowski gives [Harold] an energetic, crisp, emphatic reading. The sinewy sound of the Louvre players' period instruments, though, lends it a rougher, almost folkier texture, against which the viola's individual voice stands out more sharply than usual...von Otter, less bright than in her previous recording, has gained depth of feeling and soaring, plangent tone to become a worthy match for Janet Baker and Regine Crespin”
The Arts Desk
18th February 2012
“this performance enables Antoine Tamestit’s every inflection to be felt over the startingly translucent sonorities of Marc Minkowski’s Musiciens du Louvre. Berlioz’s flair as an orchestrator gains so much from using period instruments. This disc sounds stunning...von Otter’s voice never feels strained over such a carefully balanced accompaniment...These are the most enjoyable versions of both works I’ve heard in years”
“[Tamestit] catches well the balance between the solo aspects of his role and integration within the programmatic surroundings, but self-effacement sometimes inclines too far towards anonymity...[von Otter's] forlorn sense of loss and regret conjures rare intimacy and intensity, admirably supported by the delicacy and colour of the orchestra. The winning subtlety of the vocal items readily transports the disc into the must-hear category.”
“I’m happy to be able to report to anyone wanting a version of this work on period instruments that this new recording should more than meet their needs. Minkowski conducts with flair and his orchestra is excellent...This is one of the most stimulating Berlioz releases that I’ve heard in recent years.”
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