Author Topic: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14  (Read 25653 times)

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karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #40 on: April 27, 2007, 05:45:50 AM »
For some reason Americans do not like Norrington so

Not quite.  A friend of mine here in Boston maintains that Norrington is good, only that he is not well served by his recordings.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #41 on: April 27, 2007, 06:02:14 AM »
I have another Markevitch recording - the first ever to leave me with a favourable impression of this piece.



Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz
Berliner Philharmoniker

This in my mind is the better of the two Markevichs. The orchestra plays magnificently, unlike the shoddy ensemble coordination and intonation of the Lamoureux. I'm all for French sound, but the Lamoureux just play inadequately. The Markevich BPO recording, by contrast, produces some of the most magical atmospheres of all. The moment right before the idée fixe appears in un Bal is pure magic. It sounds as if a stunningly beautiful woman just entered the room and all heads turned in her direction and there was a moment of hushed silence. Nobody does this better. This recording is a real gem.

That Jansons recording with the BPO - is it available on CD?

No, but Jansons made an equally fantastic recording of the work with the Concertgebouw for EMI which has been reissued very cheaply. The interpretation is virtually identical and to me the Concertgebouw plays a notch better in that performance. But for one odd idiosyncracy (crescendos on the trombone fanfares in Marche au supplice that are not in the score - Jansons does it on both recordings and also did it when I heard him conduct this live with NYPO), the Jansons/Concertgebouw is to me one of the very best modern sound recordings of the work.

Beecham's FNRO is as close to a period instrument band as you are ever, now, likely to get as they were still in possession of that unique French sound (the horns vibrato the obvious indicator) and the discipline to match.

Sure, but why not take Cluytens with the Conservatoire orchestra who accomplishes the same French authenticity but is emotionally so much more compelling and coaxes far better playing out of his orchestra than Beecham, and the Cluytens is live!

Paray is different altogether. He moulded his brilliant Detroit band into the French orchestra of his dreams. Not for repeated listening but worth the occasional airing.

Except for the brass which have the unmistakeable not very French timbre of an American military marching band. They obliterate everything in their path in the last two movements. Sorry, I just can't warm to this recording. I also find Paray rather races through the first few movements. Of French conductors with non-French orchestras I would rather take Cluytens's protegé Prêtre conducting the Vienna Symphony on Teldec (early 90s) in the most stunningly virtuosic performance I have ever heard.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 10:43:05 AM by O Mensch »

Offline Shrunk

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #42 on: April 27, 2007, 06:02:41 AM »
I don't know how many CBC-2 radio listeners there are here, but as it turns our this week's "Cage Match", on Tom Allen's show, was "Death vs Taxes".  Death was represented by the "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem, and Taxes by the "March to the Scaffold" from Symphonie fantastique.

Taxes won.

(I guess this post will be meaningless to those not familiar with the show!)

Offline edward

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #43 on: April 27, 2007, 06:24:38 AM »
I don't know how many CBC-2 radio listeners there are here, but as it turns our this week's "Cage Match", on Tom Allen's show, was "Death vs Taxes".  Death was represented by the "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem, and Taxes by the "March to the Scaffold" from Symphonie fantastique.

Taxes won.

(I guess this post will be meaningless to those not familiar with the show!)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann does something like this in the finale of his Music pour les soupers de Roi Ubu (a collage work entirely based on other people's music). The March to the Scaffold dukes it out with the Ride of the Valkyries before both are obliterated by mindless drum-pounding. The meaning isn't very subtle.

Good thread...the Symphonie Fantastique isn't one of my favourite Berlioz works but I'm not sure whether I would change my mind if I added a another recording to the earlier of Colin Davis' Philips readings (the one on the 6-disc Berlioz orchestral works box set).
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Offline Shrunk

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #44 on: April 27, 2007, 07:21:19 AM »
Gosh, I do enjoy the Munch/BSO reissues.  Tolerating them is no effort at all.

Munch and the BSO recorded it twice for RCA.  The first session, in mono, is a much better performance, but I don't know if it's ever been reissued on CD.  The cover art is quite amazing, too:



No one seems to have mentioned another highly-regarded performance: Colin Davis with the Concertgebouw.  Any opinions on that one?
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 07:30:14 AM by Shrunk »

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #45 on: April 27, 2007, 07:28:06 AM »
Munch and the BSO recorded it twice for the RCA.  The first session, in mono, is a much better performance, but I don't know if it's ever been reissued on CD.

Both performances are included in The Big Berlioz Box


Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #46 on: April 27, 2007, 07:36:00 AM »
No one seems to have mentioned another highly-regarded performance: Colin Davis with the Concertgebouw.  Any opinions on this one?

Excellent effort. Better than his Philips/LSO version and just a tad more convincing than his LSO live version. Haven't heard his VPO Philips recording. Davis is a very fine Berliozian and you can't go wrong with his classic Concertgebouw account, but there are a number of others who are just a bit more magical (Markevitch/BPO), atmospheric (Cluytens/Conservatoire, Barenboim/OdP, Jansons/Concertgebouw), emotionally more compelling (Prêtre/VSO, Solti/CSO 1970, Cluytens/Concervatoire) and equally well or a tad better played and in better sound (Prêtre/VSO, Jansons/Concertgebouw, Davis/LSO Live, Barenboim/CSO, MTT/SFSO).

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #47 on: April 27, 2007, 07:49:30 AM »
I would also like to recommend this one:



which crowns Bernstein's amazing CBS recordings with the NYPO. Even comes with a free lecture on Berlioz's masterpiece.

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #48 on: April 27, 2007, 07:54:55 AM »
Oh, right; the man who brought us, "Dig it, man, Berlioz must have been smoking some weird shit" . . . .

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #49 on: April 27, 2007, 08:25:04 AM »
I would also like to recommend this one:



which crowns Bernstein's amazing CBS recordings with the NYPO. Even comes with a free lecture on Berlioz's masterpiece.

Good effort, very compelling interpretively and emotionally, but the orchestra isn't quite up to the task in places.

Offline Iago

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #50 on: April 27, 2007, 08:51:45 AM »
IMO, Charles Munch/BSO have given us the definitive interpretation of the Symphonie Fantastique. It's supposedly about a man in a drug induced fantasy. It's to be played with wild abandon and a touch of schizophrenia. Despite any musical flaws in the performance (and I must say that I don't hear any, but others have complained that they exist), Munch captures the spirit of the piece like no other conductor before or since. And the Boston Symphony responds to his every wish in a magnificent manner.
Even the great Pierre Monteux (whose own performances of that work were acclaimed in most venues) doffed his beret where the Munch conducted performances were concerned.
"Good", is NOT good enough, when "better" is expected

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #51 on: April 27, 2007, 08:54:56 AM »
It's to be played with wild abandon and a touch of schizophrenia.

If you read Berlioz's own writings on orchestral conducting, you will see that this is not the case. All the insanity of the piece comes out perfectly fine if the score is observed, without the excess hysteria added by Munch.

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #52 on: April 27, 2007, 09:41:28 AM »
Good effort, very compelling interpretively and emotionally, but the orchestra isn't quite up to the task in places.

The NYPO in the 1960s were sometimes hit and miss. But the final two movements are about as good as any out there.

Offline Iago

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #53 on: April 27, 2007, 09:52:24 AM »
All the insanity of the piece comes out perfectly fine if the score is observed, without the excess hysteria added by Munch.

I don't hear any excess hysteria in the Munch performance. And I doubt that others (excluding you) do either. And if it's a question of whose recommendation is to be listened to, I prefer that of Pierre Monteux to yours.
"Good", is NOT good enough, when "better" is expected

Danny

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #54 on: April 27, 2007, 09:53:42 AM »
I have never heard a better version than the old Beecham one from the 1950s. Beecham was really inside this kind of music, and the French orchestra is in tune with the world of Berlioz.


Amen to that!

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #55 on: April 27, 2007, 10:10:03 AM »
The NYPO in the 1960s were sometimes hit and miss. But the final two movements are about as good as any out there.

Actually, it's the ensemble coordination and balancing in V that I had most issues with. It's compelling nonetheless.

I don't hear any excess hysteria in the Munch performance. And I doubt that others (excluding you) do either. And if it's a question of whose recommendation is to be listened to, I prefer that of Pierre Monteux to yours.

Alas, the good Pierre died long before many of the more recent excellent recordings were issued. Re: hysteria, please take the score and look at the Marche au supplice. Then listen to Munch with score in hand. Now does that sound like a March? More like a mad dash, no? More like a lunatic who can't wait to get his head chopped off, than someone experiencing a bad dream. In the last long crescendo before the tempo picks up, there are some wonderful woodwind ostinatos that contribute to the eerie and surreal atmosphere Berlioz has in mind here. Can you hear them with Munch? No. Because a) the brass are too loud and b) even if they weren't, the tempo is too fast for the winds to articulate what they are doing. There are many other details like this that add up to a whole different animal than what Berlioz wrote. Again, Munch is very dramatic and the BSO plays probably better on this recording than on any other of their recorded performances, quite phenomenally really, and it's perfectly fine to enjoy this recording for what it is. But if someone asks me for a recommendation to get to know the work, this wouldn't be it. For a reference recording, I expect more textual fidelity. The ideal is to have the perfect balance between emotional drive, atmosphere, structural clarity, observance of the text and highest caliber of technical execution. That balance may be struck in many different ways, of course, but Munch is missing a few ingredients here.

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #56 on: April 27, 2007, 10:12:23 AM »
Very interesting, O Mensch;  and now I want to revisit the recordings myself!  :)

Offline Wanderer

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #57 on: April 27, 2007, 10:38:02 AM »
I have another Markevitch recording - the first ever to leave me with a favourable impression of this piece.



Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz
Berliner Philharmoniker

Jeux d'enfants by Georges Bizet
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux


Q

This in my mind is the better of the two Markevichs. The orchestra plays magnificently, unlike the shoddy ensemble coordination and intonation of the Lamoureux. I'm all for French sound, but the Lamoureux just play inadequately. The Markevich BPO recording, by contrast, produces some of the most magical atmospheres of all. The moment right before the idée fixe appears in un Bal is pure magic. It sounds as if a stunningly beautiful woman just entered the room and all heads turned in her direction and there was a moment of hushed silence. Nobody does this better. This recording is a real gem.

Sounds like I really ought to get that, as well...

That Jansons recording with the BPO - is it available on CD?

Not as far as I know. The filmed concert includes, apart from the Symphonie Fantastique, Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony (No.94) and Mozart's Flute Concerto No.2 with Emmanuel Pahud.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 10:47:26 PM by Wanderer »

Offline Iago

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #58 on: April 27, 2007, 12:43:00 PM »


Alas, the good Pierre died long before many of the more recent excellent recordings were issued.  The ideal is to have the perfect balance between emotional drive, atmosphere, structural clarity, observance of the text and highest caliber of technical execution. That balance may be struck in many different ways, of course, but Munch is missing a few ingredients here.

Surely you will agree that Monteux was capable of discerning the "missing few ingredients" in the Munch performances that you claim exist. If he indeed did hear them, they apparently weren't important enough for him to withdraw his unqualified admiration for those performances. The recordings released after Monteuxs death have no bearing on that admiration. Simply put, if it was admired by Monteux, it's admired by me.
"Good", is NOT good enough, when "better" is expected

Michel

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #59 on: April 27, 2007, 12:53:30 PM »
Isn't Muti supposed to be very good here?

 

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