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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

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Audio CD, September 25, 2001
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$559.84 $40.98

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Charles Munch's overwhelming natural affinity with French music made him an ideal conductor for Berlioz's swirling tour de force Symphonie Fantastique. The Lewis Layton/Richard Mohr recording from 1962 perfectly captures the drama and romance of this piece. Track Listing 1. Reveries: Passions 2. A Ball 3. Scenes in the Country 4. March to the Scaffold 5. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath

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Munch's 1962 recording of the Symphonie Fantastique has held its place as the best available recorded version against many worthy challengers. With its stunning sonics, this JVC release of the original, licensed from RCA, solidifies its top position. Munch's view of the piece is more volatile and exciting than Colin Davis's classically oriented version, befitting Berlioz's opium-induced nightscape. Under Munch, the Bostonians were among the world's best orchestras and they sound it here, the strings absolutely radiant, the winds and brass as good. The "March to the Scaffold," with its driving tympani and bold brass fanfares, has never sounded more engrossing, and the deep-toned bells in the "Witches Sabbath" are thrilling. And so is the sensitive but flowing "Scenes in the Country," which can often sound overlong in other performances. This XRCD-processed version will be sought after by audiophiles to show off their systems, but its sonic superiority over other recordings can easily be heard even on a small table-top stereo. --Dan Davis

1. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Visions and passions
2. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Un bal: Valse, Allegro non t
3. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Scene au champ, Adagio
4. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Marche au supplice, Allegro
5. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Charles Münch
  • Composer: Hector Berlioz
  • Audio CD (September 25, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Jmc / Xrcd
  • ASIN: B00005NTOR
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,566 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Enaitz Jar on September 13, 2005
Charles Munch, the great Romanticism master, recorded two different versions of this work with the Boston Symphonic Orchestra, one in 1954 and this gem in 1962. The first one is good enough, the second one is truly amazing.

Recorded with prehistoric experimental stereo, at the time it was recorded (by the legendary sound engineering pioneer Lewis Layton) it was a cutting edge recording, showing the best of RCA tech in the "Living Stereo" series. Now, it needed a good remaster not to lose it's position as the best Symphonie Fantastique ever recorded.

It's unbelievable the sound quality achieved by this XRCD (Expanded Resolution CD) new remaster technique, and it's playable on any CD player. The people at JVC has done a superb work, it can be compared with any ADD recording, and it's even better than some DDD ones. As a 1962 quasi experimental classical recording you should not expect much of the sound quality, and this was true until this release. While the previous remasters were satisfactory, this is simply unbelievable, the sound is equivalent to what you should expect from a real good classical recording from the eighties. I think this remaster work worths the high prize asked, but if you are on a real tight budget you could try the cheaper "Living Stereo" edition of the same recording.

The performance, as any conducted by the great Charles Munch, is impressive. Charles Munch was a Romanticism specialist, his recordings of Berlioz, Ravel or Saint-Saens are a musical legend. In this recording the musical forces used are enough to conquer a world. In the "March To The Scaffold" the driving tympani sounds like an earthquake, most because of the reverberation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David on August 15, 2008
I agree with other reviewers that this is an exceptional recording. The BSO sounds great, and the sound is better than one might expect for 1962 (I have a vinyl recording that's a little worn by now, but I imagine that a clean remastered CD must be better still). The strongest aspect is the rhythmic drive in the fast sections. I've heard several other recordings more modern recordings that sounded weak, stodgy and sloppy in comparison. This performance is not particularly subtle -- just straight-ahead power, precision, and dynamism.
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Verified Purchase
In my early record-collecting days, this was one of the few LP's I bought solely on the strength of a description of a work in a magazine. With the promise of a passionate, full-blooded romantic symphony, with a march to the scaffold, an opium-filled (in tune with the times on release, then? this was the Sixties!) dream of a witches sabbath, complete with tolling bells, this had be given an audition. The record did not disappoint. In the time since then, I have heard many much-hyped versions, but I still return to this one. A 'nostalgia buy', then? Maybe a little, but, nostalgia aside, this still stands up today as a great version of this work, and the sound is faithful to the original LP. The bloom on the strings is intact, alongside CD's extra clarity, but minus, thankfully, the rather intrusive tape-hiss of the LP. I believe JVC used the first-generation, LP-equalized tape for this disc?, which is why I paid more than I usually would for a CD. A Frenchman himself, Charles Munch was, unsurprisingly, a French music specialist, and Berlioz in particular, and with an orchestra like the Boston Symphony, the work certainly gets it's full due. A disc by one of my favourite combinations (the other being the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner). It's not the cheapest, but I believe in this case you get what you paid for..

P.S. If I may be allowed to correct a point by a fellow-reviewer, this was never a 'Living Stereo' release. It was one of the first 'Dynagroove' releases. I remember a magazine review at the time that was of the opinion that the sound was inferior to the well-loved 'Living Stereo' series. If it is, then the difference is subtle, and hardly worthy of consideration. To conclude, still a great listen; I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with this disc, if you know the work or not.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hiram Gomez Pardo HALL OF FAME on December 21, 2005
There is not any single doubt to affirm this well know Symphony is a prototype by itself of the maximum Romantic expression ever composed. The febrile imagination and the dreamy landscapes seem to confirm it and even witness it.

The incandescent reading offered by Charles Munch with the most aristocratic American ensemble ever existed The Boston Symphony deserves a special place in your collection. Elegance, phrasing, sonority, passion and mercurial energy are conjugated in the accurate proportions.

Maybe you are engaged by any other version. But still on, take your time and simply listen the thundering First Movement or the sensual refinement of the Waltz in the Second Movement. Once you finished listening I may guarantee you, you will change your mind and will acquire it without hesitating.

Nevertheless, the 1954 version is even superior to this one.
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