Many thanks to our friend Trottar for Nicolai Gedda, who died January 8th 2017
This recording is part of the historic Colin Davis Berlioz cycle made for Philips in the 1970s. La Damnation de Faust is not an opera; it is not meant for the stage. It is a concert work, not a theatrical piece. It can be adapted for the stage, of course, and has been very successfully many times. The male singers in this recording are hard to beat. Gedda in particular gives one of his best performances on record.
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Performers: Josephine Veasey, Richard Van Allan, Nicolai Gedda, Jules Bastin
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Colin Davis
Number of Discs: 3
Size: 2.53 GB
Colin Davis probably did as much as any musician since the war to establish Berlioz as a central musical classic. This set is the earlier of his versions of Faust. In terms of recorded tone and quality it is good, but needs a little management to be heard to best effect. Right at the start Faust may seem just a bit remote, so you will be tempted to turn up the volume, only to think better of that when the first major orchestral outburst, recorded with great fidelity, makes its impact. Similar issues of tone-manipulation continue to present themselves throughout the set, but when you have been through it once you will have worked out your solution to what is only a minor problem with modern technology. In terms of the interpretation of the work, I doubt if there has been any better since, his or anyone else’s.
Davis seems a complete natural for this extremely French music, much as Previn seems to be for English music. He understands his man through and through and finds no contradiction between the grandiose effect-maker and the lyricist who can take his place with Schubert, Weber and Brahms. For me, the crucial qualification in an interpreter of Berlioz is that he must know how to relax. This music, like Ravel’s, will gather not just power but immense power through its own idiom and in the composer’s good time, and it must not be forced in any way. Davis gets the Rakoszy march to perfection, and if that can actually be said for most conductors these days, I suspect it is in no small measure down to Davis that the standard has been set. Where vividness is called for, as in some of the more pantomimish turns by Mephistopheles, Davis gets his orchestra to respond admirably. If the result slightly suggests the version of the Devil ridiculed by C S Lewis’s Screwtape as something in red tights, I suspect that was Berlioz’s vision anyway.
Faust himself is far and away the most important vocal part. Faust here is sung by no less than Gedda, and his rendering has probably been the touchstone ever since. He is something like perfect, although I confess I was not listening, nor inclined to listen, for minutiae of his French pronunciation. In sound alone Mephistopheles is largely a singer of beautiful lyric music with a number of outbursts when the composer remembers to be diabolic, and while I can’t associate Jules Bastin with this view, if that’s what it happened to be he carries it off admirably. I have a particular liking for the steady, unexaggerated and affecting Marguerite of Josephine Veasey, and it only remains to trot out routine but sincere and appreciative compliments to everyone else concerned.
Since writing the above I have had the chance to see as well as hear Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust on DVD. He was a rum one, was Berlioz. It was only to be expected that he would be taken with the Faust legend, considering the impact Goethe’s Faust had on the entire romantic movement. Duly captivated, he treats us to what is in large part one of his highest achievements in `absolute’ music, with its wonderful instrumental episodes and its numerous songs. Whether it really comes near to Goethe’s great enquiry into what perdition, salvation, indeed the soul itself, may consist of I have never been too sure. It may be that there is a dimension missing from even the finest sound-only rendering, which is very likely this one, and that the work is crying out for staging. One way or the other, neglect it at the peril of your musical soul.
Analyzed folder: /96k Berlioz – Damnation De Faust – Colin Davis
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR15 -0.53 dB -21.14 dB sideA.aif
DR16 -0.81 dB -23.36 dB sideB.aif
DR16 -0.81 dB -24.73 dB sideC.aif
DR17 -0.59 dB -22.97 dB sideD.aif
DR15 -1.06 dB -22.21 dB sideE.aif
DR15 -0.81 dB -21.68 dB sideF.aif
Number of files: 6
Official DR value: DR16
- Bass Vocals [Brander] – Richard Van Allan
- Bass Vocals [Méphistophèlés] – Jules Bastin
- Choir – Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir
- Chorus – London Symphony Orchestra Chorus*, Ambrosian Singers*
- Chorus Master [Ambrosian Singers] – John McCarthy
- Chorus Master [French Language Coach] – Janine Reiss*
- Chorus Master [London Symphony Orchestra Chorus] – Arthur Oldham
- Chorus Master [Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir] – Russell Burgess
- Composed By – Berlioz*
- Conductor – Colin Davis*
- Conductor [Assistant] – Maurits Sillem
- Leader [London Symphony Orchestra] – John Brown (2)
- Liner Notes – David Cairns (3)
- Mezzo-soprano Vocals [Marguerite] – Josephine Veasey
- Mezzo-soprano Vocals [Voix Céleste] – Gillian Knight
- Orchestra – London Symphony Orchestra*
- Soloist, Cor Anglais – Geoffrey Browne
- Soloist, Viola – Alexander Taylor
- Tenor Vocals [Faust] – Nicolai Gedda
- Words By – Almire Gandonnière, Gérard de Nerval, Hector Berlioz
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Vintage (1982) Yamaha PX-3
Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
- Cartridge: ZYX 50R Bloom
- Phono amp: Audio Research SP15 own tube phono section
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Audio Research SP15
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
If you like what i do, please consider that a little donation would be very appreciate.
I reinvest all donations in maintenance of my rig, for purchasing cleaning solutions and, most important of all, purchasing of new vinyls.
Click on the “Donate”-button.