Author Topic: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14  (Read 36265 times)

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Online Que

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #140 on: January 28, 2016, 10:05:41 AM »
It may well have been you that alerted me to that one. I had not realised that Markevitch had done two different versions until someone on this forum [you?] had pointed it out to me.

And they are quite different.  :)

With the Berliner you get the luxury of one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, and still it sounds entirely  idiomatic.

Q

Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #141 on: January 28, 2016, 01:19:24 PM »
And they are quite different.  :)

With the Berliner you get the luxury of one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, and still it sounds entirely  idiomatic.

Q

I am really looking forward to it; I have it on order but it has not landed yet.
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #142 on: February 04, 2016, 09:51:15 AM »
Thank you for those suggestions.

I have never heard of van Otterloo or Paray  so those are totally new to me.

I have often read about the Beecham mono recording so I must get that, even for comparison with the stereo version.

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Offline Pat B

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #143 on: February 04, 2016, 02:46:02 PM »
I have never heard of van Otterloo or Paray  so those are totally new to me.

I have the first two Mercury Living Presence boxes. Paray seemed to be their #2 conductor (to Dorati). Some people credit him with bringing a "French" sound to the Detroit Symphony. To me, they just sound sloppy (very unlike Dorati) -- but I don't think I've heard his Fantastique yet.

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #144 on: February 05, 2016, 10:11:17 AM »
I have the first two Mercury Living Presence boxes. Paray seemed to be their #2 conductor (to Dorati). Some people credit him with bringing a "French" sound to the Detroit Symphony. To me, they just sound sloppy (very unlike Dorati) -- but I don't think I've heard his Fantastique yet.

I would be interested to read your review if and when you did listen to it just to see if it confirms your general opinion.
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Offline Brian

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #145 on: February 05, 2016, 10:44:02 AM »
I have the first two Mercury Living Presence boxes. Paray seemed to be their #2 conductor (to Dorati). Some people credit him with bringing a "French" sound to the Detroit Symphony. To me, they just sound sloppy (very unlike Dorati) -- but I don't think I've heard his Fantastique yet.
I believe that at the time, French orchestras were well-known for their sloppiness.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #146 on: February 05, 2016, 10:44:50 AM »
Very nicely played, sieur.
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Offline Pat B

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #147 on: February 05, 2016, 04:20:54 PM »
I would be interested to read your review if and when you did listen to it just to see if it confirms your general opinion.

It turns out I did listen to it, but I didn't write any notes about it. (Don't read that as any sort of statement about the performance.)

I'll try to play it again and comment sometime next week. BTW I think geralmar was joking about it "must be good." Its inclusion in the 3rd Living Presence box was surely a mistake. Mercury apparently did a mono recording with Dorati -- maybe somebody got confused when assembling the 3rd box.

I believe that at the time, French orchestras were well-known for their sloppiness.

:)

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #148 on: February 06, 2016, 03:25:12 AM »
It turns out I did listen to it, but I didn't write any notes about it. (Don't read that as any sort of statement about the performance.)

I'll try to play it again and comment sometime next week. BTW I think geralmar was joking about it "must be good." Its inclusion in the 3rd Living Presence box was surely a mistake. Mercury apparently did a mono recording with Dorati -- maybe somebody got confused when assembling the 3rd box.

:)

Thank you for that  :)
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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #149 on: February 06, 2016, 03:28:37 AM »
I believe that at the time, French orchestras were well-known for their sloppiness.

It is good to know that certain traditions have persevered over time.
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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #150 on: February 12, 2016, 05:10:47 PM »
I would be interested to read your review if and when you did listen to it just to see if it confirms your general opinion.

Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray, 1959.11, Mercury 434 328-2. My copy is from Mercury Living Presence Box 1, but the 1993 individual CD release should be identical.

More than anything else, this performance is fast. It's faster in every movement than almost every other version I looked at (Munch 1954 was the only exception, being somewhat faster in 3 and 5 but still about 1:30 slower than Paray overall). The March works the best. I'm not sure it sounds like a march, but it does capture the sense of the dreamy fantastic. The first movement is effective too, with a spectacularly thrilling climax. Unfortunately Un Bal is also played for intensity and excitement, with little sense of mystery or grace, and the third movement doesn't have much of a pastoral vibe. The Sabbath is fairly well done but doesn't evoke much psychedelia.

My listening notes say that this team's Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony and Danse Bacchanale are sloppy. That's not an issue here at all. This is really well played, especially considering the tempi. The only issue worth mentioning is that the lower bell in Dies Irae is out of tune -- but that happens in other recordings too and might be somehow authentic or appropriate.

The violins sound a tad harsh and the stereo separation seems high, but once the ear adjusts it sounds excellent, as expected from Mercury.

Some people call this a favorite, and it finished impressively in the GMG blind comparison. I, however, file it in the "interesting alternative" category.

Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #151 on: February 13, 2016, 02:32:56 AM »
Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray, 1959.11, Mercury 434 328-2. My copy is from Mercury Living Presence Box 1, but the 1993 individual CD release should be identical.

More than anything else, this performance is fast. It's faster in every movement than almost every other version I looked at (Munch 1954 was the only exception, being somewhat faster in 3 and 5 but still about 1:30 slower than Paray overall). The March works the best. I'm not sure it sounds like a march, but it does capture the sense of the dreamy fantastic. The first movement is effective too, with a spectacularly thrilling climax. Unfortunately Un Bal is also played for intensity and excitement, with little sense of mystery or grace, and the third movement doesn't have much of a pastoral vibe. The Sabbath is fairly well done but doesn't evoke much psychedelia.

My listening notes say that this team's Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony and Danse Bacchanale are sloppy. That's not an issue here at all. This is really well played, especially considering the tempi. The only issue worth mentioning is that the lower bell in Dies Irae is out of tune -- but that happens in other recordings too and might be somehow authentic or appropriate.

The violins sound a tad harsh and the stereo separation seems high, but once the ear adjusts it sounds excellent, as expected from Mercury.

Some people call this a favorite, and it finished impressively in the GMG blind comparison. I, however, file it in the "interesting alternative" category.

Thank you for the review. It sounds interesting to me so the Paray version will go onto the List.  :)
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #152 on: October 22, 2016, 07:20:08 AM »
I now own two versions of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique conducted by Igor Markevitch, one with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the other with L’Orchestre Lamoureux, Paris. After an A/B comparison, here is my attempt to describe the differences that I perceive between the two versions and below I have listed a little more detail, movement by movement, for each version.

A brief summary of the essential differences that I find between the two versions is as follows:

The Markevitch/Berliner Philharmoniker is a faster and leaner sounding version with a certain heightened tension to it.

The Markevitch/Orchestre Lamoureux is a slower [consistently in every movement], fuller sounding version where I feel that the weight of the drama is more accentuated.

Both versions are of course valid but my overall conclusion is that the recording with the Berliners is, notwithstanding the wonderful performance, unfortunately equivalent to a 2-D image while the later one with the Orchestre Lamoureux is more like a 3-D version with all of the added dimensional depth. For me it is just more alive and emotionally charged. This is not to say that the Berliner’s performance is a poor one; it most certainly is not. It comes down to the impression that one is left with after hearing both recordings. However I am glad to have both.

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #153 on: October 22, 2016, 07:21:29 AM »
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [Markevitch/Berliner Philharmoniker]....





Markevitch certainly succeeds in portraying a highly strung subject in the first movement with the tension and agitation of the playing.
The tempo of the waltz of the second movement feels a little rushed to me and the thinner recording leaves it feeling just a little anemic.
Once again, in the third movement, the richness of the scoring and no doubt the playing is undermined by the thinness of the recording. The beauty and the yearning of the music certainly comes across but not as much as it could, I feel. However, this aspect only serves to enhance the tension where required in the middle section.
The faster tempo of the fourth movement in this version leads to a heightened sense of tension, excitement and drama.
In the fifth movement the leaner sound emphasises the sinister element of the music. The faster tempo also emphasises the frenzy of the descent into Hell.

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Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #154 on: October 22, 2016, 07:22:55 AM »
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [Markevitch/Orchestre Lamoureux, Paris]....





A more relaxed tempo and a fuller sound are the initial points of note here. Despite the slightly slower tempi tension and drama are maintained in the first movement of this version.
The fuller sound gives a more lush feeling to the waltz in the second movement in this version. The sound from the harps in particular benefit here. The slightly slower tempo also allow for the music to breathe a bit more.
In the third movement the more opulent sound of this recording certainly serves the music well, it appears more invigorated and energized. It also lends weight and added drama to the turbulent middle section. The sound of the timpani at the conclusion of the movement is just wonderful.
In the fourth movement of this version the march seems more menacing. The overall sense of the sinister and drama is enhanced by the quality of the recording.
In the fifth movement of this version the fuller sound lends extra weight and emphasises the drama in the score. The weight of the double bases and the timpani greatly assist in generating an atmosphere of menace.

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Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #155 on: October 24, 2016, 07:03:31 AM »
aligreto, interesting observations. For me, there is a little too much sloppy ensemble playing in the Lamoureux recording for me to be really able to enjoy that performance. And ultimately, Markevich wasn't one to care about atmosphere or coloration. That wasn't something he moulded or enforced in rehearsals. He just took whatever color the orchestra gave him. And to me, there is a lot more that can be done in that department in this work that makes the difference between just a good performance and magic.

The Berlin Philharmonic in those postwar years - still Furtwängler's band, but with F losing grip and before Karajan came in - is an interesting beast. There are times where it's clear that it has technically suffered and isn't quite at the top where it could be, but what is really revealing is the kind of more clearly central European sound this orchestra had before Karajan changed everything - and this is the brief period where that sound was captured in top quality mono or even modern stereo. If you find the Markevich performance too "2D" as you say, but are interested to hear what this orchestra could do at that time in that repertoire, there is a little known but very worthwhile performance Rudolf Kempe from 1959 (originally on EMI, reissued on a bunch of budget labels over the years). He's to me one of THE great underrated conductors of the last century. The performance is by no means idiomatically "French" in sound, but what Kempe somehow manages to accomplish from the very first notes is to set a kind of fairy tale atmosphere, where you know from the beginning that an amazing story is about to unfold. It is really lovingly done and dramatically grippping.

Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #156 on: October 24, 2016, 08:10:49 AM »
aligreto, interesting observations. For me, there is a little too much sloppy ensemble playing in the Lamoureux recording for me to be really able to enjoy that performance. And ultimately, Markevich wasn't one to care about atmosphere or coloration. That wasn't something he moulded or enforced in rehearsals. He just took whatever color the orchestra gave him. And to me, there is a lot more that can be done in that department in this work that makes the difference between just a good performance and magic.

The Berlin Philharmonic in those postwar years - still Furtwängler's band, but with F losing grip and before Karajan came in - is an interesting beast. There are times where it's clear that it has technically suffered and isn't quite at the top where it could be, but what is really revealing is the kind of more clearly central European sound this orchestra had before Karajan changed everything - and this is the brief period where that sound was captured in top quality mono or even modern stereo. If you find the Markevich performance too "2D" as you say, but are interested to hear what this orchestra could do at that time in that repertoire, there is a little known but very worthwhile performance Rudolf Kempe from 1959 (originally on EMI, reissued on a bunch of budget labels over the years). He's to me one of THE great underrated conductors of the last century. The performance is by no means idiomatically "French" in sound, but what Kempe somehow manages to accomplish from the very first notes is to set a kind of fairy tale atmosphere, where you know from the beginning that an amazing story is about to unfold. It is really lovingly done and dramatically grippping.

Thank you for the interesting feedback, comments and historical context, which is always worthwhile.

With regard to Kempe you are preaching to the converted here as I have always held him in high regard. I must try to source that recording that you mention  :)
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Offline MishaK

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #157 on: October 25, 2016, 07:22:31 AM »
Btw, if you want to hear what is possible with a French orchestra with that distinctly French sound (which you get only partially with Markevich/Lamoureux), check out:

- Martinon/ORTF: declared the winner in a GMG blind listening of Op.14 a while back. Certainly the most disciplined, well colored, atmospheric and well recorded of all French performances. It's more of a restrained, classicist conception of the piece, not a romantic heart-on-sleeve affair.

- Cluytens/Conservatoire Orchestra live in Tokyo 1964: it's a live performance, so there are a couple of messy bits, but the INTENSITY! This is one of the most gripping accounts out there. The audience leaps to its feet at the end and you'll want to join. And it's a genuinely French sound; this was available on the IMG/EMI "Great Conductors" series only AFAIK.

- Dutoit/OSM: we all know the technically best French orchestra is in Quebec. ;-) Terrific playing, idiomatic, superbly recorded, even if there are a few odd tics of Dutoit's here and there. I've heard Dutoit conduct this live with the UBS Verbier Orchestra and I have to say he's much more interesting live. This OSM recording is a studio recording and that shows in that it is a bit impersonal and slick. But it's worth hearing for just the quality of the playing within the idiom of the French school of wind playing because there is no other performance of the French school on that technical level. Maybe not something you need to buy, but worth seeking out e.g. on Spotify.

Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #158 on: October 25, 2016, 08:05:59 AM »
Btw, if you want to hear what is possible with a French orchestra with that distinctly French sound (which you get only partially with Markevich/Lamoureux), check out:

- Martinon/ORTF: declared the winner in a GMG blind listening of Op.14 a while back. Certainly the most disciplined, well colored, atmospheric and well recorded of all French performances. It's more of a restrained, classicist conception of the piece, not a romantic heart-on-sleeve affair.

- Cluytens/Conservatoire Orchestra live in Tokyo 1964: it's a live performance, so there are a couple of messy bits, but the INTENSITY! This is one of the most gripping accounts out there. The audience leaps to its feet at the end and you'll want to join. And it's a genuinely French sound; this was available on the IMG/EMI "Great Conductors" series only AFAIK.

- Dutoit/OSM: we all know the technically best French orchestra is in Quebec. ;-) Terrific playing, idiomatic, superbly recorded, even if there are a few odd tics of Dutoit's here and there. I've heard Dutoit conduct this live with the UBS Verbier Orchestra and I have to say he's much more interesting live. This OSM recording is a studio recording and that shows in that it is a bit impersonal and slick. But it's worth hearing for just the quality of the playing within the idiom of the French school of wind playing because there is no other performance of the French school on that technical level. Maybe not something you need to buy, but worth seeking out e.g. on Spotify.

Thank you once again; recommendations always appreciated  :)
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
« Reply #159 on: July 24, 2020, 12:11:23 PM »
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [van Otterloo]





The Daydreams introduction is wonderfully ethereal in its music making and the Passions section is delivered assertively and ebulliently.
Un Bal is a serene waltz offering great contrast to the opening music making. The sound of the strings is particularly appealing.
Scene aux champs wonderful exercise here in a contemplative but disconcerting pastorale; it is presented wonderfully. One is kept on edge constantly, expectantly. The timpani rolls at the end of the movement are really ominous, threatening.
Marche au supplice opens with wonderful brass fanfares and sets a dramatic tone. The tension is maintained by wonderful strings.
The final movement is suitably edgy and atmospheric with great brass, once again and the strings work themselves up into an appropriate frenzy.

I like the tone and pacing throughout.
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