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*** 1/2 BERLIOZ: "La Damnation de Faust" Anne Sophie von Otter, mezzo-soprano; Keith Lewis, tenor; Bryn Terfel, baritone; Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, Myung-Whun Chung, conductor Deutsche Grammophon

January 24, 1999|CHRIS PASLES

Berlioz's musically audacious reworking of the Faust story (the score revels in tunes, rhythms and counterpoint) receives loving attention from Chung, who follows every metronome marking and phrase indication without sacrificing any flow, elegance or power.

The soloists, unfortunately, are a mixed lot. Singing the title role, Keith Lewis lacks heroic ardor and strains at the top notes. He also falls into the final pit of damnation a little too prettily.

Bryn Terfel makes a subtle, insinuating Mephistopheles, but there's something annoying about the way he keeps his vocal power so much in reserve. Where is the evil when you need it? Anne Sofie von Otter makes a cool and direct but usually affecting Marguerite.

But the sonic engineers deserve greatest credit. You can hear each musical line in the complex texture involving soldiers, students, Faust and devil. Really remarkable.

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