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Norman Lebrecht’s Album of the Week – Les Troyens

By (November 3, 2017) No Comment

Berlioz: Les Troyens

***** (5 of 5)
Almost every new release I sampled this week should never have been made. One album after another lacked conviction, coherence and, sometimes, pulse. These are records where label and artist ask one another what to do next without either side asking aloud whether this project is absolutely necessary.

None of which can be said about the present release. The need for a new-gen recording of Berlioz’s epic opera is pressing, given that the last two trustworthy attempts, by the late Sir Colin Davis, are wearing thin. Erato’s no-holds-barred team is conducted by the Berlioz specialist John Nelson and features Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyres as Dido and Aeneas, with Marie-Nicole Lemieu as Cassandra. The orchestra and choruses of Strasbourg are full-on in quite the most thrilling way. When they hit you with a battle cry, you stay hit.

Taken from two live performances and a patch session, the immediacy is irresistible and the authenticity unimpeachable. I won’t give you chapter and verse on a five-act opera lasting almost as many hours, but every live Troyens that I have seen loses pressure in the second or third act. Not this one. More than any individual artist in the team it is the collective full-onness of this event that will stay with me for a long time to come. It has to be the go-to Troyens for the next decade.

Norman Lebrecht has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc, writes a monthly essay for Standpoint magazine and is writing two more books.