Berlioz - Te Deum

The one thing that can be said with absolute certainty about Berlioz was that he conceived his compositions on the grandest of scales. While the orchestral and choral forces required by the ‘Te Deum’ are not as vast as those of the ‘Requiem’, the scale is still epic which is one of the reasons why it is not frequently performed.

The ‘Te Deum’ was composed in 1849 and dedicated to Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert’s magnificently ornate memorial stands in Kensigngton Gardens opposite the Albert Hall, which is one of the few musical performance spaces of a size really able to do the piece justice. The first performance was in the church of St. Eustache in Paris, when Berlioz conducted an ensemble of what is believed to have been around 950 performers.

The present recording was taken from performances conducted by Sir Colin Davis in the Barbican Hall. As anyone who has been to the Barbican will know, 950 performers would not leave a lot of space for the audience, so the performances were on a somewhat more modest scale. With an orchestra or around 90 musicians, a chorus of 120 singers and the tenor soloist, there was no skimping on the percussion from a section lead heroically by Neil Pursey. The boys of Eltham College provide a wonderfully appealing additional colour.

It is a tribute to Sir Colins feel for Berlioz and his ability to balance massive ensembles that the present recording sounds as compelling as it does. In this he was aided by the LSO live recording team who have – over the years – found ways to make the confined spaces of the Barbican Hall sound more spacious than they really are.

Very few recorded performances include the two purely orchestral sections Berlioz wrote (with their even more outlandish demands, such as multiple snare drums and twelve harps). Davis has always omitted these and he does so here – for musical as much as practical reasons..

The recording of the ‘Te Deum’ is a special release as part of the LSO’s Sir Colin Davis commemorative box set which, coincidentally, is also the 100th release on LSO Live.

James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer

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