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Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Roman Carnival Overture Import

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, April 23, 1991
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: David Zinman
  • Composer: Hector Berlioz
  • Audio CD (April 23, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Imports
  • ASIN: B000003CXK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,051 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Karl W. Nehring on July 15, 2009
Format: Audio CD
In writing about these two recordings (the Zinman on Telarc v. the Boulez on DGG) , I believe I am going to end up sounding like (of all people!) Harry Pearson. I am here referring to the Harry Pearson who could write about two power amplifiers (think of HP comparing an expensive solid state unit with an expensive tube unit) by first praising the solid-state for its good qualities (excellent bass, great detailing ability, etc.), but then when he got around to writing about the tube unit, he would then pull out all the rhetorical stops.

After conceding that his favorite had some flaws (maybe the bass was a little tubby, maybe there were some little hints of coloration here and there), he would then manage to make those flaws sound not like problems, but rather like endearing qualities that just make the tube amp all the more desirable. He would then go on to make it clear that despite its flaws, the amp he favored was preferable by miles and miles to the more technically proficient, less flawed, but less loveable unit.

I used to get a real chuckle out of reading that kind of stuff in the pages of The Absolute Sound. I hope that at least a few readers will get a chuckle out of what I am going to say about these two recordings.

I am actually quite an avid fan of Pierre Boulez, and when I got picked up his CD, I was quite excited. I played it a few times, marveled at the orchestral playing, enjoyed the good sound, but then started looking for other recordings to play.

When I put on the Zinman, I just flat-out enjoyed the music more. What's more, I enjoyed the sound more. In fact, having reacquainted myself with the Zinman disk, I quickly decided that I never wanted to listen to the Boulez again. The difference was just that stark.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When I was a student in England in my teens, I first came across this symphony on TV. Er ... it was BBC 2 showing a recorded performance by Previn and RPO. It was early 80s. I was hooked especially by the second and fourth movement. In the middle of searching for a disc my brother passed a copy onto me which was Telarc's Cleveland and Maazel. I thought I got the "bible" of this work in terms of software. I had not listened to any other recording in the last 25 years.
I started to develop an interest in Zinman/Baltimore with an excerpt of Tchaikovsky's 4th in Telarc's Best of Tchaikovsky. I then bought their CD of his 1st piano concerto.
When I came across this CD, my initial reaction was it could be another earth shaking session for demonstrating one's hi-fi. Ah, to my pleasant surprise such reading of the work turned out refined and actually quite expressive especially at low volume. The disc was very quiet and the acoustic of the venue was well represented. There was very balanced sound overall while the strings retained their touch shy live-like characteristics and the bassline was rounded and full, even with my mini-monitors. The brass and wind sections were dynamic and detailed and respectfully drew attention from time to time but never dominating the stage.
I would say Cleveland/Maazel was a touch more focused and sharper in projection. However, this disc had slightly better bass, dynamics and musicality. In short this CD sounded more classical with a more substantial audio quality.
I was for a while tempted to look for other recordings. Now I shall live with this disc for another 25 years.
Bravo!
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Format: Audio CD
I'm sorry, but I just can't take the "Symphonie Fantastique" seriously. It purports to represent really scary stuff -- but really scary stuff as imagined by the adolescent mind isn't all that scary, and Berlioz's sense of what's interesting in a hopeless lover's mind just isn't interesting. Fortunately for us, Berlioz was capable of providing vivid and varied orchestral palettes, and that's what this symphony amounts to -- less a symphony, really, than an orchestral suite, perhaps comparable to the "Pines of Rome" (although, to be fair to Respighi, less involving than that!). That all said, I can't imagine it being better played and recorded than it is here -- Zinman and the Telarc engineers in the early 1990's had the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra sounding like a million dollars, and they do here. The way in which individual instruments and groups are captured is spectacular, and the recording has an appropriately wide dynamic range to complement its faithfulness. The last two movements have plenty of zip just as orchestral showpieces, and that's at bottom what they are. Berlioz is a great composer -- "Les Nuits d'Ete," Les Troyens," "Benvenuto Cellini," "The Damnation of Faust" -- one could go on -- but this isn't really a symphony, and the only fantastic thing about it is Berlioz's resourcefulness as an orchestrator.
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Format: Audio CD
Fantastic composition, fantastic orchestra, fantastic conductor. Baltimore Symphiny gets a melodious sound that no other orchestra can get.
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