Top positive review
13 people found this helpful
A viscerally exciting Faust with excellent soloists
on February 23, 2008
I was ready to give this EMI budget two-fre of Berlioz's Damnation de Fuast three stars, strictly on my memory of Georges Pretre's bald-faced, sometimes brash conducting. But once I begn listening again, a lot caught my ear. It's always a god sign when Faust's treacherous opening solo is well sung, and Nicolai Gedda is first-rate, singing with apparent ease and lovely style. Then there's the very French orchestra and chorus. They add a particular flavor that even the greatest orchestras outside France can't match--Berlioz sounds at home in Paris, as Johann Stauss does in Vienna.
Even though the mezzo doesn't have a large part, I originally bought this recording for Janet Baker, who is intense and superb in every way--as she is in the filler, her classic recording of La Mort de Cleopatra (which can be had in several reissues; I'd find oe with the latest remastering since the sonics here are a bit thin and edgy). By the time I got to Gabriel Bacquier's exciting and sinuous Mephistopheles, a really nasty, confident devil, I was hooked.
It's only because of the staggeringly strong competition from Myung-Whun Chung and Igor Markevitch, both brilliantly performed in the Gallic vein, along with estimable version from Colin Davis and Charles Munch, that I can't quite put this set in top place. It certainly has a great deal of drama going for it, however, and the wide-ranging sonics are thrilling.