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Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique /ORR * Gardiner CD

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD, March 16, 1993
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 16, 1993)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B00000414P
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,892 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is a revised version of my earlier review, and I hve to rewrite it because I was in a hurry to submit it and did not put enough thought into that one.
With Gardiner's period-instrument recording of the Berlioz Fantastique, we find ourselves a part of the music's interesting world that fascinated the Parisian audience at its premiere. Recorded in the original venue of its 1830 world premiere, it proves, along with Gardiner's companion Polygram recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies, that period performances need not be anaemic and boring, including this one, especially when this performance has a high voltage and bings the cork cohesively. The suspenseful, spellbinding and peerless playing of the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique is enough to give Roger Norrington's London Classical Players a run for their money, and every small detail shines through perfectly. The admittedly dry accoustic, which seems like a menace to some, shows its positive side here by allowing this to happen, and the Philips engineers have risen to the challenge of producing perfect srecorded sound within such accoustics.
Gardiner sets the romantic tone of the piece with his opening Reveries, showing the wide range of emotions in the artist in relation to his unattainable beloved. When he reaches the main Allegro section, he gives the movement ample forward thrust and impetus, and brings out both the hysteria and the sweet innocence of the idee fixe at the same time. The Ball sequence that follows sways with a lyrical edge and, though the period violing may lack the full sweetness of modern-day instruments today, it is still an enjoyable listen, especially when it contains the cornet obligato. For the next part of the work, the performance quietens down with the onset of the Scene in the Country.
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Comment 19 of 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
Why not imagine that today is December 5, 1830, rather than December 5, 2003? And that you are a Parisian concertgoer, more or less knowledgeable about the music of the time, including that of Ludwig van Beethoven, whose symphonies were just in the process of "being discovered" by Parisians of the time? Place yourself, if you will, in the concert hall of the Paris Conservatoire on this date, to hear the first public performance of any work by a young French composer - still six days shy of his 27th birthday - who, in the previous two years, had been dramatically affected by hearing Beethoven's symphonies.

That Frenchman was of course Hector Berlioz, and his work that received its premiere on December 5, 1830 was his Symphonie fantastique. And, if you had been one of the concertgoers at this premiere, as you proceeded to your seat, you would take in the vista of an orchestra whose likes (and size) you had never seen before, one with four harps across the front, a battery of timpani arrayed across the rear, and, as well, a number of woodwind and brass instruments never before seen in such an ensemble. An unusually young man with an unruly mop of red hair would take the podium, thence to lead the orchestra in a near-hour-long work that would affect the course of musical history for a century to come. The work would be an instant success, and young Berlioz, unruly red mop and all, would become an overnight celebrity as a result.

What John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique have endeavored to do in this recording is nothing less than to recapture the excitement of that premiere, right down to details such as the actual performance venue and the incorporation of period instruments used by Berlioz then but seldom since.
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Comment 18 of 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
There are a lot of thoughtful reviews examining this recording's aural and artistic merits. The main points of criticism reference the "close" acoustic and direct overall approach. The main points of approval reference the clarity of detail and surprises in the orchestration.

To me, it all adds up to the recommendation that this should not be anyone's first or only recording of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. To me, this is a somewhat close acoustic of a performance that tries to let the music speak for itself. Read on to see why I recommend this recording.

When I had my first glass of dry Bordeaux wine, I thought "how could anyone really like this stuff? Anyone who says they do is posturing!" But my more experienced friends urged me to "try it a few more times and you'll develop a taste for it". There are some people who are used to very sweet wines and beverages. Should they *have* to "try it a few more times"? Those of us who know what it's like to develop a taste for dry, tannic, oaky red wines would heartily answer "yes!". We're never happy with "I know what I like, and I like what I know".

I don't mean to imply that the negative reviewers here are inexperienced or closed minded. Clearly that is not the case.

I worked in record stores while in college in the early 70s. At that time the "authentic" or "original instruments" movement was nascent, with people like Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus, and Gustav Leonhardt and others screeching away at old violins, blatting it out on sacbutts, and coaxing tinny cembalos or pianofortes.
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