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George Dorris
Ballet Review, January 2009

"Beecham had a special way with this score, as evidenced by his second recording, made in 1947-48 with young French singers and now reissued by Naxos...welcomed for the style."



Alan Blyth
Gramophone, September 2001

"When this important 1948 recording appeared on Preiser at full price, it doesn't seem to have received a review. No matter; now Naxos offers it at super bargain price in an excellent transfer by Ward Marston, and it is the version to have. It is significant not only for Beecham's deft way with the score (which he had recorded some 10 years earlier in English for Columbis with Heddle Nash in the title part, new available on Dutton, 5/94), but also for being one of the last recording of a French opera made entirely with French singers. At the time, the cast was considered a shade disappointing. Not so now: in the light of what was to follow, the singers seem a model of French style. To hear these native-born artists declaiming in their own tongue is pleasure enough in itself, but as they are all masters of their roles, the delight in hearing them is the greater.

"Best of all is Nore as Faust himself. His refined, plaintive timbre allied to his sense of style makes his entire contribution, one flat note in the love duet excepted, above reproach. There are few if any versions of 'Salut demeure' so distinguished, and his high C at the end is perfectly taken. He does just as well in the Garden Scene. Geori Boue is not a soprano to everyone's taste - her tone can sound a shade shrill - but she sings with such a good line, such a feeling for the words, and is so inside her role that she is forgiven the occasional uncomfortable note. Rico's Mephistopheles may lack some devilry, but far better his strong, finely limned singing than the histrionics many non-French basses have imposed on the part. Bourdin is such a good Valentin that one regrets the excision of his aria, a later addition, written for Santley. The supporting singers are more than adequate.

"Beecham's recently formed RPO covers itself in glory and the British chorus perform with elan as citizens and soldiers. Any younger collector eager to learn how authentically French this work can sound should hurry to buy the set. Beecham enthusiasts will welcome the return of a recording so long unavailable."



Roy Brewer
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"The high seriousness of the Faust legend is given a Gallic twist in this typically French opera. Gounod's librettists, Michel Carre and Jules Barbier, contented themselves with a love story that does not feature in other versions, and any resemblance is to the Faust legend is little more than that between Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld and the Greek myth. (Nevertheless, the pedantic Germans chose to rename the opera Margarethe). Either way, Faust comes closer to operetta than grand opera and, needless to say, Beecham, takes it in his stride. From the opening bars it is clear that here we have a crisp, lively performance with, for its time, a remarkably clean and convincing sound from both orchestra and singers, all without having to play the thirty-two sides of the original 78 rpm recording made in EMI's Abbey Road studio.

Appearing in true pantomime fashion (through the floor in a flash of red light) Mephistopheles makes a pact that grants the old philosopher eternal youth in exchange for his soul, producing an image of Marguerite to clinch the deal. Again like panto, the devil has many of the best tunes. Roger Rico's excellent Mephistopheles makes his mark early in the opera with a thrilling, fast-paced Le veau d'or (the "golden calf" aria) and continues with an impressive presence throughout, especially in the mocking "serenade", Qu'attendez vous encore? in Act IV. George Nore's lightish tenor is at its best in the romantic scenes, but rises nobly to the occasion when, in the last Act, Faust gets his come-uppance. Geori Boue, a pleasingly youthful Marguerite, copes easily with the bel canto demands of her part in such arias as the famous "jewel song", in Act III.

It could hardly be said that Faust has maintained the high reputation it had in the nineteenth century operatic repertoire, and this vivacious performance is a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate the delicious melody and subtle characterisations that Gounod distils from what, in other versions (for example. Boito's Mefistofele (1868)) can seem a somewhat turgid subject for a lengthy opera. It needs no better champion than Sir Thomas Beecham to realise the drama and pathos of this delightful score with wit, intelligence and panache. Faust is high on the list of successes in this Naxos series of "historic" recordings, and makes a good case for performing the opera in its original French."





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