I got hold of the recent Chandos recording of Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ largely because I wanted to take a look at the Super Audio CD format. On that subject my thoughts are here. But it was also a chance to listen to a piece I was entirely unfamiliar with. I’m glad I did. It’s quite beautiful music; lyrical rather than dramatic, except perhaps in the early sections where Herod is having a hissy fit. I can see why it’s not done very often though. It calls for seven soloists plus chorus and a big orchestra.
The recording was made in Melbourne with Andrew Davis conducting the Melbourne Symphony and Chorus with a multinational line up of soloists. They are all excellent with Sasha Cooke and Roderick Williams well matched as the holy parents, Andrew Staples narrating, Andrew Goodwin and Shane Lourencev as the Romans with Matthew Brooke doubling as Hérode and the Ishmailite. I think it’s Davis’ conducting that makes the disk. It has his trademark tautness of rhythm, dynamics that support the singers and absolute clarity of texture. That last comes out in some very fine woodwind playing by the orchestra.
The recording was made in June 2018 in Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Even the CD player compatible track is 24 bit 48Hz and there are surround and stereo SACD tracks for those suitably equipped. It’s a lovely job engineeringwise whichever option you choose; spacious, crisp and very transparent. The documentation is very complete including the full text and English translation. Honestly, audio recordings don’t come much better.