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Berlioz: Te Deum
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I have had the pleasure of attending many musical performances in "Big John" (an affectionate nickname for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and the world's largest Gothic cathedral). Even with a full crowd (which I believe is in excess of 3,000 not counting standees), its reverberation time is approximately seven seconds, which can be a challenge to not only musicians but to a recording crew as well. But the Delos crew - one of the finest in the industry - was more than up to the task of capturing not only this remarkable Berlioz work but a good deal of the natural Big John acoustic ambience in truly lifelike sound.
Hector Berlioz, a "sui generis" composer if ever there were one, wrote this Te Deum as an "occasion piece" with the idea in mind that it would (and should) be performed in a cathedral, not a concert hall. For its full impact, it fairly cries out for the antiphonal sounds of the full orchestra and the pipe organ to provide a "call and response" at various points in the work (most prominently at the beginning and end, but elsewhere as well). This antiphonal intent of Berlioz simply cannot be realized in a concert hall - no matter how fine the organ - if the organ itself is not antiphonally disposed, as it can only be in a proper cathedral.
The occasion for this performance, as is well spelled out in the booklet notes but totally ignored by Mr.Read more ›
I have listened to this recording multiple times, and I am still in awe of its beauty and magnificence. I respect all the musicians, Susan and Joseph Ohrt, and especially Dennis Keene immensely for the effort they put into the event. Keene's narration found on the last few tracks adds a nice touch to the recording and is especially helpful to first-time listeners so that they may better understand the piece. In all, this version of the "Te Deum" is a very solid one. (And whenever I tell my friends nearby at the Eastman School of Music I had the opportunity to participate in the making of this recording, this political science major gains a little respect!)
Dennis Keene seems to have a love affair with this work and with the forces he conducted. It shows in the recording and it shows in his informative, separate narration on the musical and emotional structure of this masterwork by Berlioz. Illustrated as it is by selections from the performance, it's not only educational, it's beautiful and entertaining.
Forget David Hurwitz. The very little that he says which happens to be accurate, is poisoned by the plethora of his bewildering balderdash.
This is a quick recap of Hurwitz' absurd mis-remarks:
"Unfortunately, that's about the best part of this performance ..."
Not to give short shrift to the sonic grandeur of those opening chords ... but to say that it essentially goes downhill from there, is banana oil. For one thing, the magnificent fortissimo cadence, and soft coda to finish up the "Tibi omnes" is glorious; and sets a brilliant contrast for the dolcissimo opening of the "Dignare."
"... which takes on a distinctly amateurish cast from there on."
I know two hundred directors of church music, who would commit anything short of a deadly sin, if they could thereby be granted such a passel of "amateurs." The astounding thing is the high level of performance, with all those musicians in such a vast space.
"The various choruses are simply not up to the demands of the piece ..."
Rubbish. The several choruses do beautifully.
" ... (they are utterly defeated by the warlike Judex crederis, just when they should sound strongest)"
If this is defeat, the musical world could do with more defeat.
"... and the conducting ... seems more concerned with simply getting through a tough job."
The conductor led nearly 400 musicians. You DON'T LEAD nearly 400 musicians in a performance this fine, of a piece lasting nearly an hour, unless they're convinced by your direction. I didn't see Dr Keene actually wave the baton, don't get me wrong.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a live performance from the national convention of the American Guild of Organists held in New York City, July 7-9, 1996. Read morePublished 7 months ago by pyramidcvv
I heard this piece performed for the first time in Stuttgart, Germany and left the performance in tears.... Read morePublished 22 months ago by John Sosnowski
It really comes close to the ideal (my first hearing of this wonderful work was the Beecham recording nearly 50 years ago). However... Read morePublished on May 29, 2011 by Ken Clark
I think this is probably as good a recording as one is likely to get of the Berlioz Te Deum. At first I was a little put off by the long delay time, but, after all, it was... Read morePublished on October 10, 2009 by Good Stuff
I must agree with the late, great Bob Zeidler in his review that this disc deserves better than the Hurwitz review (and agree with another reviewer that it is probably a review... Read morePublished on October 19, 2005 by FrKurt Messick
Some call it the brother of the Requiem. It sure is a sibling if we only consider the Babylonian size of the work, of the necessary orchestra and choir. Read morePublished on July 28, 2003 by Dr Jacques COULARDEAU