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Penguin Guide, January 2009

La Mort de Sardanapale, though ironically only a fragment has survived, that fragment is markedly less original than any of the earlier works, even if it is well worth hearing for the hints of Berlioz themes to come. Herminie, based on Tasso’s Jerusalem Liberated, strikingly uses a central theme the motif that soon after became the idée fixe of the Symphonie fantastique, while La Mort de Cléopâtre even more clearly anticipates the operatic tone of voice that reached its culmination in Les Troyens. Even the earliest cantata, La Mort d’Orphée, with tenor and a chorus of raging bacchantes, brings a memorable close…with the Lille Orchestra under Jean-Claude Casadesus warm and refined.

Philip Anson
La Scena Musicale, March 2004

"An excellent concept to group Berlioz's Prix de Rome Cantatas on one CD. The native French singers all do justice to these difficult sustained declamations written to fit the academic requirements of France's top music composition competition. French soprano Michele Lagrange is dramatic and passionate in the "lyric scene" Herminie (1828). Beatrice Uria-Monzon brings a colourful, plush mezzo to La Mort de Cleopatre (1829). French tenor Daniel Galvez Vallejo applies a cloudy but powerful voice to the "monologue and bacchanale" La Mort d'Orphee (1827) and to the surviving 5-minute fragment of the cantata La Mort de Sardanaple (1830)... The Orchestre National de Lille plays with requisite detail and drama."

Geoffrey Norris
The Telegraph, July 2003

Music Week, July 2003

"Berlioz's youthful Cantatas are brimful with wild passion and energy that shaped his larger-than-life adventures in his early days as struggling composer. Jean-Claude Casadesus and dramatic soprano Michele Lagrange give a suitably full blooded account of Herminie, a winning performance packed with raw emotions."

David Cairns
, July 2003

"Casadesus has combined, for the first time on disc, all four of Berlioz's student cantatas: Orphee, Herminie, Cleopatre and Sardanapale (of which only a fragment has survived). That the two most conventional, Herminie and Sardanapale, were successful and the other two failed, shows how the Rome Prize was conceived and judged. Herminie contains some striking inventions (including the final diminuendo as Erminia gallops to the aid of Tancred), but it was in Orphee and Cleopatre that Berlioz made something memorable of the stilted text. Daniel Galvez Vallejo is the admirable tenor in Orphee, and Beatrice Uria-Monzon is evocative as the dying Cleopatra."

T. Hashimoto
San Francisco Examiner

"Berlioz attempted four times to win the Prix de Rome...putting them together on one disc for the Berlioz bi-centennial was a smart idea. Casadesus is a stylistically authentic accompanist."

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