Author Topic: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14  (Read 30665 times)

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Offline JoshLilly

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Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« on: April 26, 2007, 06:22:39 AM »
I've never liked this piece. However, after discovering how much my impressions and feelings toward symphonies by Beethoven and R.Schumann could change with period instrument performances, I'm hopeful that I might have the same experience with this symphony. It is one of the few pieces I've ever heard that really sounds "ahead of its time", and it's seen as this fantastic landmark in orchestral music. I'm sure that it is. It's also quite popular. I may never like it, but then again, I'm thinking now that I've never heard it done properly, as in, using the instruments and scale for which Berlioz was composing.

I've discovered at the least two prominent recordings of this work that are supposedly "HIP". I was tempted to just get the Gardiner version, as the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique is probably my favourite orchestra in the world (and Gardiner my favourite conductor). But Roger Norrington also seems to have one out there, and the best recording ever made of my favourite piece of music was done by him (W.A.Mozart's Don Giovanni). I'm going to be a little more careful this time, and hope to hear a few opinions on so-called HIP renditions of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique before rushing out and buying one.

Steve

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2007, 06:30:28 AM »
As much as I love many works of Berlioz, I have never found myself drawn to this piece. Of course, now that you mention it, I have yet to hear a HIP recording either. I'd be interested to hear the fuits of your searching.  ;)

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2007, 06:32:30 AM »
Get the Gardiner. He really knows what he is doing. Norrington's recording, though hailed for reasons inexplicable to me, sounds really amateurish in comparison. The playing is scratchy, intonation sketchy and the one thing that HIP performances should accomplish goes awry: sectional balances. I would steer clear of Norrington. Mind you, I have only heard his first effort with whatever that English band of his was, London Classical Players or whatever. I haven't heard the more recent Stuttgart version.

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2007, 06:35:13 AM »
My ears did a complete reversal, twice, over the years.  Once on a time, all I had ever heard of the piece was of course non- (or strictly speaking, pre-) HIP.  Then, the piece fell out of my favor.  Norrington's ground-breaking HIP recording (from something like the mid- to late 80s?) made me listen to the piece with fresh ears at the time. Yet, by now, I have reached a point where I prefer non-HIP (but not mushy) readings of the piece.

For which reason, I probably will not have any more to offer in this thread  8)

Steve

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2007, 06:42:14 AM »
What do you think of the Gardiner, Karl?

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2007, 06:45:29 AM »
Haven't listened to it yet, Steve.

mahlertitan

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2007, 06:49:44 AM »
it's good

Harry Collier

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2007, 06:53:24 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.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2007, 06:55:09 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.

"Better" in what respects? I am familiar with the Beecham, but find it neither the most emotionally compelling, nor the most attentive to the score, nor is the orchestra playing superlative, nor even the most "French".

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2007, 07:02:32 AM »
Well, I'm looking for something more in line with what Berlioz was actually writing. Besides which, I don't buy recordings from the 1950s, they're unbearable in sound quality. No matter how good the transfer supposedly is, I've never found one that was even remotely tolerable. How people can stand to listen to that stuff, I'll never know. Not ungrateful for the suggestion, but (a) 1950s recordings are out for me no matter what, and (b) it would certainly have been a modern, over-large orchestra.

karlhenning

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2007, 07:04:30 AM »
Well, I'm looking for something more in line with what Berlioz was actually writing. Besides which, I don't buy recordings from the 1950s, they're unbearable in sound quality. No matter how good the transfer supposedly is, I've never found one that was even remotely tolerable.

Gosh, I do enjoy the Munch/BSO reissues.  Tolerating them is no effort at all.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2007, 07:08:39 AM »
Well, I'm looking for something more in line with what Berlioz was actually writing. Besides which, I don't buy recordings from the 1950s, they're unbearable in sound quality. No matter how good the transfer supposedly is, I've never found one that was even remotely tolerable.

Solti's 1958 Rheingold?

Steve

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2007, 07:09:49 AM »
"Better" in what respects? I am familiar with the Beecham, but find it neither the most emotionally compelling, nor the most attentive to the score, nor is the orchestra playing superlative, nor even the most "French".

Yes, I was quite turned off by the Beecham, as emotive as Berlioz is, his rendition was very dry. I am, however, very interested in the Gardiner.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2007, 07:40:39 AM »
If choosing between Gardiner and Norrington, go with Gardiner. Norrington sleepwalks through the piece. But there are modern instruments versions much better than either.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2007, 07:48:25 AM »
If choosing between Gardiner and Norrington, go with Gardiner. Norrington sleepwalks through the piece. But there are modern instruments versions much better than either.

Agreed. With the sort of demands that Berlioz makes on orchestras, both in terms of size and virtuosity, the HIP approach doesn't really produce results that a well-trained modern orchestra can't easily improve upon. Even so, Gardiner is worth hearing. Norrington's main problem is that he is dogmatically stuck with mannerisms and practices that belong to a different period than Berlioz. He really shouldn't have strayed outside the Baroque and early classical.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2007, 07:56:04 AM »
Solti's 1958 Rheingold?

Also Reiner's 1954(?) Scheherazade is unbelievable in sound.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2007, 08:00:01 AM »
Also Reiner's 1954(?) Scheherazade is unbelievable in sound.

Indeed, and still top choice for the piece.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2007, 08:20:54 AM »
Indeed, and still top choice for the piece.

Wouldn't want to be without Ormandy or Ansermet though ;)

Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2007, 08:25:44 AM »
Wouldn't want to be without Ormandy or Ansermet though ;)

Ormandy is great, but, oddly, cuts a few bars in the last movement.

mahlertitan

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2007, 08:26:39 AM »
i don't know why, but the march to the scaffold makes great Halloween music.