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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: JoshLilly on April 26, 2007, 06:22:39 AM

Title: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: JoshLilly 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve 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.  ;)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning 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)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve on April 26, 2007, 06:42:14 AM
What do you think of the Gardiner, Karl?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on April 26, 2007, 06:45:29 AM
Haven't listened to it yet, Steve.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: mahlertitan on April 26, 2007, 06:49:44 AM
it's good
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Harry Collier 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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".
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: JoshLilly 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Larry Rinkel 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on April 26, 2007, 07:56:04 AM
Solti's 1958 Rheingold?

Also Reiner's 1954(?) Scheherazade is unbelievable in sound.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite 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 ;)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: mahlertitan on April 26, 2007, 08:26:39 AM
i don't know why, but the march to the scaffold makes great Halloween music.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Larry Rinkel on April 26, 2007, 09:07:58 AM
Ormandy is great, but, oddly, cuts a few bars in the last movement.

If we're talking about Ormandy's Scheherazade, I remember a big cut near the end of the third movement, but can't recall anything cut in the fourth. I'm sure of the third movement cut, because that was the version our family owned when I was a kid, and when I first got a score and heard the movement complete it took me a while to get used to it.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on April 26, 2007, 09:14:00 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.

Just wanted to say that I did not mean to seem to endorse the Norrington (if it hath so seemed).  My impression at the time was simply a new view of the Berlioz, and as my ears were in those days, this did me the service of hearing the Symphonie fantastique afresh.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 26, 2007, 09:15:27 AM
If we're talking about Ormandy's Scheherazade, I remember a big cut near the end of the third movement, but can't recall anything cut in the fourth. I'm sure of the third movement cut, because that was the version our family owned when I was a kid, and when I first got a score and heard the movement complete it took me a while to get used to it.

Sorry, that's what I meant. Third, not fourth.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on April 26, 2007, 09:23:40 AM
If we're talking about Ormandy's Scheherazade, I remember a big cut near the end of the third movement, but can't recall anything cut in the fourth. I'm sure of the third movement cut, because that was the version our family owned when I was a kid, and when I first got a score and heard the movement complete it took me a while to get used to it.

I thought that was a bad edit....
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on April 26, 2007, 09:36:24 AM
Ormandy had scissor-happy fingers, the piker.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Haffner on April 26, 2007, 09:36:32 AM
Solti's 1958 Rheingold?




How good is this performance, O?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 26, 2007, 09:50:27 AM
How good is this performance, O?

Excellent, really. It's part of his seminal Ring. It was the first of the four to be recorded.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 26, 2007, 09:56:02 AM
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've done more than just hear it...I've lived with it for 18 years. Norrington's is still my favorite version of this symphony for reasons I'll detail later once I get my thoughts together.

Josh, Gardiner is definitely the safer bet--emphasis on safe--but if you want to hear something that sounds truly radical and different, you'll need to experience Norrington's Fantastique. There's nothing else like it.

Sarge
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve on April 26, 2007, 10:09:51 AM
Anyone familar the Maazel?

I would post the image, but this is a school pc, and it simply will not behave!

http://www.amazon.com/Berlioz-Symphonie-Fantastique/dp/B000026H2A/ref=sr_1_4/002-8511684-6309615?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1177614577&sr=8-4
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 26, 2007, 10:22:29 AM
Josh, Gardiner is definitely the safer bet--emphasis on safe--but if you want to hear something that sounds truly radical and different, you'll need to experience Norrington's Fantastique. There's nothing else like it.

It's also nothing quite like Berlioz's score.

Anyone familar the Maazel?

I would post the image, but this is a school pc, and it simply will not behave!

http://www.amazon.com/Berlioz-Symphonie-Fantastique/dp/B000026H2A/ref=sr_1_4/002-8511684-6309615?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1177614577&sr=8-4

Alas, no. That is one of the few fantastiques that I haven't gotten my paws on quite yet. I meant to hear Maazel conduct the work with NYPO at the end of last season, but I unexpectedly had to move and thus had to give my tickets away.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 26, 2007, 10:59:21 AM
Anyone familar the Maazel?

Yes, I own it. It was one of my first CD purchases, in fact: number 11. I like it but more for the sound of the recording (great early Telarc effort) and the brilliance of the Cleveland Orchestra (particularly the brass) than for anything Maazel does. Maybe I'm being too harsh. It's been awhile since I last heard it.

Sarge
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 26, 2007, 11:01:09 AM
It's also nothing quite like Berlioz's score.

Which just might be the ticket for Josh. He claims he doesn't like the symphony! So, let's give him something completely different ;D

Sarge
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: DavidW on April 26, 2007, 01:05:56 PM
Gosh, I do enjoy the Munch/BSO reissues.  Tolerating them is no effort at all.

Yup that's my keeper, perhaps the best in town?  Whatever it is, it's darned good. :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 26, 2007, 01:13:22 PM
Yup that's my keeper, perhaps the best in town?  Whatever it is, it's darned good. :)

I guess that depends on what town you mean.  ;)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: val on April 26, 2007, 11:27:57 PM
To me Beecham recorded the best version. Powerful, with a great tension but also elegance.

In second place I would consider Paray with Detroit, with a faster tempo and a fabulous articulation.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Wanderer on April 26, 2007, 11:31:52 PM
The two recordings of Berlioz's masterpiece that have impressed me the most over the years are Markevich conducting the Orchestre Lamoureux de Paris and Jansons conducting the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2001 Europa concert in Constantinople (on DVD).

(http://www.jpc.de/image/cover/front/0/7287361.jpg)(http://)

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Que on April 27, 2007, 02:53:14 AM
I have another Markevitch recording - the first ever to leave me with a very favourable impression of this piece! :)

(http://www.iclassics.com/content/assets/selection/62/61687E.jpg)

Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz
Berliner Philharmoniker

Jeux d'enfants by Georges Bizet
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux


Q
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve on April 27, 2007, 03:03:23 AM
The two recordings of Berlioz's masterpiece that have impressed me the most over the years are Markevich conducting the Orchestre Lamoureux de Paris and Jansons conducting the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2001 Europa concert in Constantinople (on DVD).




That Jansons recording with the BPO - is it available on CD?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Hector on April 27, 2007, 05:38:04 AM
For some reason Americans do not like Norrington so, if you are American, opt for Gardiner but I think, good as he is, Norrington is a must.

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.

Try Argenta's Paris Conservatoire recording from, roughly, the same period.

Both sound pretty good, still.

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.

Incidentally, Beecham, as usual, cuts, in this case the 1st movement repeat.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on April 27, 2007, 05:41:28 AM
Excellent, really. It's part of his seminal Ring. It was the first of the four to be recorded.

I am not in love with some of the gimmicks in terms of sound effects they used in that recording. But the recording is excellent by any standards. The opening E-flate pedal is so deep, rich, and natural, it has never been better.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/31MDZZZMJ3L._AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Shrunk 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!)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: not edward 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).
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Shrunk 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:

(http://www.audiocy.com/applications/CatalogManager/images/lsc1900small.jpg)

No one seems to have mentioned another highly-regarded performance: Colin Davis with the Concertgebouw.  Any opinions on that one?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning 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

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Wbmcy6X9L._AA240_.jpg)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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).
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on April 27, 2007, 07:49:30 AM
I would also like to recommend this one:

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/5141ERYEYEL._AA240_.jpg)

which crowns Bernstein's amazing CBS recordings with the NYPO. Even comes with a free lecture on Berlioz's masterpiece.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning 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" . . . .
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 27, 2007, 08:25:04 AM
I would also like to recommend this one:

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/5141ERYEYEL._AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Danny 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!
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on April 27, 2007, 10:12:23 AM
Very interesting, O Mensch;  and now I want to revisit the recordings myself!  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Wanderer 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.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/31MDZZZMJ3L._AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Michel on April 27, 2007, 12:53:30 PM
Isn't Muti supposed to be very good here?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 27, 2007, 01:17:34 PM
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.

It would be far more relevant of an endorsement if we knew why Monteux admired Munch's recording. I, too, find many things admirable about it, but it doesn't make it a reference recording for me for the reasons I cited. An endorsement without supporting reasoning is not of much use, irrespective of the fame of the endorser. It is also interesting to note that while Monteux expressed admiration for Munch, his own approach to the work is diametrically opposite. So, I could likewise argue that Monteux's verbal endorsment finds no parallel musical endorsement in his own conducting of Op.14. Clearly, Monteux thought the piece should be performed quite differently himself.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago on April 27, 2007, 09:25:34 PM
So, I could likewise argue that Monteux's verbal endorsment finds no parallel musical endorsement in his own conducting of Op.14. Clearly, Monteux thought the piece should be performed quite differently himself.

Monteuxs last recordings of two of his "signature pieces" (the Symphonie Fantastique and Le Sacre Du Printemps) were made well before the recording of the Munch/BSO performance was recorded and released. In his latter years, Monteux laid aside those works which required exacting standards to conduct, as he felt that although his mind remained sharp as a tack, he was no longer physically up to the task of preparation of those scores. Perhaps. had he been physically up-to-it, he would have changed his musical approach to the SF, based on what he so admired in the Munch performances.
We will never know.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 28, 2007, 04:49:09 AM
In his latter years, Monteux laid aside those works which required exacting standards to conduct, as he felt that although his mind remained sharp as a tack, he was no longer physically up to the task of preparation of those scores.

Just curious, what's your source for this? If he felt no longer up to the task, why did he optimistically accept a 25 year contract with the LSO at age 86?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago on April 28, 2007, 10:27:37 AM
Just curious, what's your source for this? If he felt no longer up to the task, why did he optimistically accept a 25 year contract with the LSO at age 86?

My source is my personal attendance at press conferences at Tanglewood, during which Monteux expressed those sentiments to his colleagues. And even though he accepted that 25 yr contract to lead the LSO, I believe he had NO intention of ever again performing the Symphonie Fantastique, Le Sacre or any other work that was excessively physically demanding.
You don't REALLY think that he expected to live out that contract, do you?
It was granted to him in recognition of his years of service to music, his marvelous musicianship and his veneration in the world of music.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago on April 28, 2007, 08:43:20 PM
O Mensch,

   Was that "source" good enough for you or do you want tape recordings and DNA samples as well?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Tsaraslondon on April 29, 2007, 01:11:04 AM
One of my first ever LPs was a Monteux version of the Symphonie Farntastique. Sad to say, I can't remember which orchestra, but I have a feeling it was on Decca (Ace of Dimaonds?), had a cover photograph of a scaffold silhouetted against a stormy sky, and that the 3rd movement was spread over the 2 sides. My young ears were not at that time particularly critical, but it became one of my favourite records. More importantly it was the record that switched me on to Berlioz, and began my life long love of the music of Hector Berlioz.

I did have the Gardiner on CD, but I just couldn't get on with it. Admittedly that was in the days when I was somewhat allergic to HIP performances, but it wasn't the sound of the instruments that put me off. I'd read reviews saying how revolutionary it was, and how it gave the listener a fresh perspective on the piece, so I'm not sure quite what I expected. I certainly didn't expect to find it dull, but I'm afraid I did. . I eventually bought Myun Wha Chung's recording with the Orchestre de l'Opera Bastille, which is much more exciting and also had the benefit of introducing me to a work I didn't know (Duutilleux'x Metaboles).

(http://www.goclassic.co.kr/image/chung_berlioz.jpg)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on April 29, 2007, 05:33:44 AM
Was that "source" good enough for you or do you want tape recordings and DNA samples as well?

Wasn't questioning your integrity, just curious how you heard that. Did he say what in particular about the Munch he found compelling? Now, of course, you say this was in Tanglewood, so it would have been politically correct for him to praise the most recent noteworthy recording of the home band.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Hector on April 30, 2007, 05:44:26 AM


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!

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.

Sorry, I do not know the Cluytens. The only recording I have heard is the commercial recording he made with the Philharmonia which, as I remember, was a tad rushed.

I did say the Paray for the occasional airing. I would not put this forward as a first choice.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: JoshLilly on May 04, 2007, 09:55:35 AM
I got to hear the Norrington recording; our pitiful local library amazingly had it. So I got the Gardiner one myself. I listened to both.

So um... ... ............... interesting weather lately, huh?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on May 04, 2007, 09:57:11 AM
Neither sang to you, eh?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Steve on May 04, 2007, 10:24:11 AM
Having recently heard both the Norrington and the Gardiner, I was really attracted to the latter. The sound was markedly superior, and the tempi were correct and the orchesra! Which is always important when talking about Gardiner. Now there's a conductor that rarely lets me down.

Have you heard both of these recordings, Karl?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on May 04, 2007, 10:53:26 AM
Having recently heard both the Norrington and the Gardiner, I was really attracted to the latter. The sound was markedly superior, and the tempi were correct and the orchesra! Which is always important when talking about Gardiner. Now there's a conductor that rarely lets me down.

Have you heard both of these recordings, Karl?

Haven't heard the Norrington recently;  though as I mentioned earlier, back when it was brand new, it opened my ears and renewed my interest in the piece -- and, it might be argued, was my own private Gateway to Berlioz  :)

A friend has lent me the Gardiner, and I really ought to give it a spin.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Greta on November 19, 2007, 01:31:27 PM
My interest in more recordings of the Symphonie fantastique has been revitalized after the searing performance I saw recently with Dutoit and Verbier...

I know I have two recordings of this, but one I can't find and don't remember what it is anymore...the only one I have ever really listened to is Dohnanyi with Cleveland (1989, London Records). I love it, the playing is incredible, excellent sound and dramatic interpretation, but then again I'm pretty imprinted by now...yet there are so many others out there...

It's great if the playing is fantastic, of course, but I love the dramatic, fiery performances, that also are able to nail the subtle, magical moments such as Un bal and the end of Scene aux champs. The ability to show extreme control, but also to let loose and dance on edge, especially in the last two movements.

A week later, the Dutoit performance I attended keeps coming to mind, at that time it seemed, and now still, nearly an ideal interpretation for me. I guess I should um, actually get his recording, though don't want to be disappointed in case it's not as risk-taking.

One thing I loved was the detailed way he shaped the phrases and the massive energy he worked up...the last two movements were totally involving, March to the Scaffold started off distant, mysterious, and the first timpani + orchestra hit was like someone suddenly reached out and grabbed you by the throat! Intensity in spades. I know it's hard, almost impossible - for a recording to really simulate a live performance like that, but occasionally some come along that do come close!

Jansons on DVD and Markevitch look intriguing, are there any others that one might recommend based on what I have? If it's historic, I would only be interested in pretty good sound (and reasonably good playing!), and otherwise just - passion, chemistry, and a great feel for Berlioz's wonderfully wild writing.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on November 19, 2007, 03:36:14 PM
Jansons on DVD and Markevitch look intriguing, are there any others that one might recommend based on what I have? If it's historic, I would only be interested in pretty good sound (and reasonably good playing!), and otherwise just - passion, chemistry, and a great feel for Berlioz's wonderfully wild writing.

Jansons/BPO on DVD is a live performance and it's fantastic. I'd place it at or near the top of available Op.14 recordings. Jansons also has an outstanding studio recording with the Concertgebouw on EMI that is available for so cheap, you can't go wrong in getting it. If you're interested in Markevich, I would advise on getting the 1953 mono BPO performance, not the later Lamoureux stereo. The former is just much better played and has much more atmosphere. One of my all-time favorites. Dutoit's OSM recording on London/Decca is excellently played, but unfortunately micromanaged to a fault. It just never catches fire, though there is nothing really wrong with it (Martinon/ORTF suffers from the same problem). Otherwise, why not revisit the clips from our last mystery performers comparison of Symphonie fantastique?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago on November 19, 2007, 04:13:20 PM
Just what the Doctor ordered.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41szlEtN3YL._SS400_.jpg)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: BorisG on November 19, 2007, 05:27:44 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Z1ZD09TSL._SS500_.jpg)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on November 19, 2007, 05:29:22 PM
Oh, that one must be good, Boris!

I like the sound of the Munch very well, but don't require the DVD, thank you.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on November 19, 2007, 05:53:13 PM
Here's Mitropoulos's recording with the New York Philharmonic, I'm guessing from the late 1950s.  Very good stereo sound (but from an Odyssey LP, I don't have the 6-eye Lp).  VBR mp3 ~ 192K.

http://www.mydatabus.com/public/AlleyOop/berlioz_fantastique_mitropoulos.zip
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Iago on November 19, 2007, 06:44:39 PM
I like the sound of the Munch very well, but don't require the DVD, thank you.

The photo of the Munch DVD was NOT meant for you. It was for Greta, who specifically asked for information about available DVDs. But in your usual pompous assed style, you think the whole world wants to talk to you.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: FideLeo on November 20, 2007, 01:19:29 AM
Having recently heard both the Norrington and the Gardiner, I was really attracted to the latter. The sound was markedly superior, and the tempi were correct and the orchesra! Which is always important when talking about Gardiner. Now there's a conductor that rarely lets me down.

Have you heard both of these recordings, Karl?

The Norrington as remastered by Toshiba-EMI in the Japanese reissue has much better sound than the original EMI.
I think the Gardiner could use much remastering as well - the acoustics were a bit hazy (the same on DVD), even if Berlioz premiered the piece in the same space.. 
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Mark on November 20, 2007, 01:27:05 AM
I think the Gardiner could use much remastering as well - the acoustics were a bit hazy (the same on DVD), even if Berlioz premiered the piece in the same space.

Interesting comment. I shall have to listen to this again today, as I remember the opposite - the acoustic seemed almost over-bright and a shade brittle in places. We're talking about the one on Philips, right?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: FideLeo on November 20, 2007, 01:33:18 AM
Interesting comment. I shall have to listen to this again today, as I remember the opposite - the acoustic seemed almost over-bright and a shade brittle in places. We're talking about the one on Philips, right?

It's the Philips.  But maybe I was wrong to describe it as 'hazy' - lacking a sense of space is more like it I think.
I do understand that it is a VERY crowded stage.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on November 20, 2007, 02:04:02 AM
Here's Mitropoulos's recording with the New York Philharmonic, I'm guessing from the late 1950s.  Very good stereo sound (but from an Odyssey LP, I don't have the 6-eye Lp).  VBR mp3 ~ 192K.

I'm informed that this was recorded on February 24, 1957 in Columbia's 30th Street Studios.

If the mydatabus link doesn't work because I'm over my bandwidth limit, please try

http://www.bestsharing.com/f/klIfVQe369036
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Mark on November 20, 2007, 02:36:42 AM
It's the Philips.  But maybe I was wrong to describe it as 'hazy' - lacking a sense of space is more like it I think.
I do understand that it is a VERY crowded stage.

Hmm ... this recording isn't as I recalled. A fresh listen is revealing a sonic picture that's cramped at the outer edges, and an overall sound that's a little flat. That's not to say there isn't clarity across the majority of the stereo image, mind you. I have to say this really isn't a very inspiring performance, and given the choice, I'd take Colin Davis with the VPO, also on Philips. He seems to make a much more compelling argument for this wonderful work; JEG just makes it sound like a moderately attractively run-through with the occasional lucid touch.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Drasko on November 20, 2007, 03:31:43 AM
I'm informed that this was recorded on February 24, 1957 in Columbia's 30th Street Studios.

If the mydatabus link doesn't work because I'm over my bandwidth limit, please try

http://www.bestsharing.com/f/klIfVQe369036

Many thanks!
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Mark on November 20, 2007, 03:40:14 AM
I'm informed that this was recorded on February 24, 1957 in Columbia's 30th Street Studios.

If the mydatabus link doesn't work because I'm over my bandwidth limit, please try

http://www.bestsharing.com/f/klIfVQe369036

Excellent! Thanks for this. Always up for hearing alternatives of this work. :)

Oh, and to follow up on my less-than-praiseworthy 'review' (above) on the JEG version, his interpretation seems to work far more convincingly in the final two movements than in the first three. So not all doom and gloom. :) But I stand by the comment about the whole thing feeling flat. It strikes me that the recording venue must have a super-dry acoustic.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Drasko on November 21, 2007, 07:49:22 AM
I'm considering getting these two, any opinions?

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41KDJEBN0FL._AA240_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51R4SCZRRSL._AA240_.jpg)

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Mark on November 21, 2007, 03:23:30 PM
Sampled Norrington's version over at eMusic, and very much liked what I heard. Will download it this month and report back. ;)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: FideLeo on November 22, 2007, 12:21:12 AM
I'm considering getting these two, any opinions?

The Minkowski is a Mixed Bag unfortunately.  The first two movements are a bit flat, as if the conductor were having an off day.  But the last two movements are pure Minkowski - wham, bang, all hell let loose.  A satisfactory ending.  Mahler Chamber Orchestra do not play period instruments but they are HIP influenced to be sure. 
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Marcel on November 22, 2007, 12:25:09 AM
I'm considering getting these two, any opinions?

I have P. Boulez's cd. It's very good performance, but in some moments it sounds rather "steril". It can be caused by recording quality.. The sound isn't so fresh especially in the first movement. I can compare it only with Davis and Concertgebouw Orchestra where sonics and performance are much better in my opinion.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: FideLeo on November 22, 2007, 12:27:22 AM
Sampled Norrington's version over at eMusic, and very much liked what I heard. Will download it this month and report back. ;)

It's a "LTMSFI" (let the music speak for itself) kind of Berlioz performance to me.  Some will no doubt use it as further proof of what they perceive as Snorrington- or Borringtonism.  But like you I am fond of it and return to it every now and then to get some fresh air.  It's worth at least as much to me.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Hector on November 22, 2007, 06:56:53 AM
Hmm ... this recording isn't as I recalled. A fresh listen is revealing a sonic picture that's cramped at the outer edges, and an overall sound that's a little flat. That's not to say there isn't clarity across the majority of the stereo image, mind you. I have to say this really isn't a very inspiring performance, and given the choice, I'd take Colin Davis with the VPO, also on Philips. He seems to make a much more compelling argument for this wonderful work; JEG just makes it sound like a moderately attractively run-through with the occasional lucid touch.

Oh, Mark, you disappoint me, as this is a truly great performance and JEG uses real bells in the finale that, as far as I know, makes his recording unique!

However, I agree about Davis' VPO rendering.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on November 22, 2007, 07:22:32 AM
Ones I really enjoy: Bernstein/NYPO/SONY, Munch/BSO/RCA
Another one very good: Ormandy/Phil.O/SONY
Ones I don't like (too tame, not really much going on): MTT/SFSO/RCA, JEG/Philips, Davis/RCO/Philips
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Gurn Blanston on November 22, 2007, 07:40:07 AM
...JEG uses real bells in the finale that, as far as I know, makes his recording unique!

I have a live performance by JEG et al on video, made by a friend from a laser disk. Don't know if it was ever released on any other format, probably so. In any case, this was the performance that sold this work to me (I was on the fence about it for years). Not only real bells, but ophecleides, serpents, all sorts of very cool instruments that are visually and sonically appealing. And well played, I must add. :)

8)

----------------
Now playing:  Ottetto Italiano - Beethoven - Bia 781 WoO 19 March & Trio in F for Wind Band
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Drasko on November 22, 2007, 07:43:54 AM
The Minkowski is a Mixed Bag unfortunately.  The first two movements are a bit flat, as if the conductor were having an off day.  But the last two movements are pure Minkowski - wham, bang, all hell let loose.  A satisfactory ending.  Mahler Chamber Orchestra do not play period instruments but they are HIP influenced to be sure. 

I have P. Boulez's cd. It's very good performance, but in some moments it sounds rather "steril". It can be caused by recording quality.. The sound isn't so fresh especially in the first movement. I can compare it only with Davis and Concertgebouw Orchestra where sonics and performance are much better in my opinion.

Thank you both. :)

It seems all the reviews and opinions I heard/read on Minkowski are along the a same lines of it being not completely successful, even DG dropped it out of print quite quickly.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Mark on November 22, 2007, 01:00:20 PM
Oh, Mark, you disappoint me, as this is a truly great performance and JEG uses real bells in the finale that, as far as I know, makes his recording unique!

However, I agree about Davis' VPO rendering.

Sorry to disappoint you, Hector. ;)

I wish JEG's account was more involving from the outset, rather than just towards the end of the work. But I can't get past this 'flatness' that either the performance or the recorded sound suffers with. I'm very curious to check out Norrington's traversal, as the eMusic samples I heard really sparkled. Roger's 'Un bal', particularly, seemed to have a beautifully natural lilt to it, like actually being at ball ... another reason for my eagerness to try it out in full.

As for Davis, his VPO recording 'unlocked' this work for me. Many will doubtless argue that it's an idiosyncratic, rather than idiomatic, reading - but the word that matters most to me in connection with this account is 'cogent'. The whole thing makes sense, holds a strong, thematic line from first movement to last; it gave this work a coherence which I'd clearly missed when listening to one of two other interpretations.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on November 23, 2007, 07:12:09 AM
I wish JEG's account was more involving from the outset

And if he failed there, then he was untrue to Berlioz, period.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brahmsian on August 16, 2011, 08:01:42 AM
Ok - can anyone tell me which recording has the loudest, most prominent bells in the final movement to Symphonie Fantastique?

THAT would be the recording I most want.   8)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on August 16, 2011, 08:47:34 AM
Ok - can anyone tell me which recording has the loudest, most prominent bells in the final movement to Symphonie Fantastique?

THAT would be the recording I most want.   8)

I think that would have to be Vladimir Golschmann with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.



He has actual, gigantic church bells on stage. It borders on the ridiculous. You'll love it.

You do realize, though, that in the original score Berlioz asked for the bells to be placed derriere la scène, right? So the "proper" way to do it is to have them offstage, suggesting that you hear the church tower from the village in the distance, not that the witches are actually dancing their ronde *inside* the belfry.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brahmsian on August 16, 2011, 08:51:12 AM
I think that would have to be Vladimir Golschman with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.



He has actual, gigantic church bells on stage. It borders on the ridiculous. You'll love it.

You do realize, though, that in the original score Berlioz asked for the bells to be placed derriere la scène, right? So the "proper" way to do it is to have them offstage, suggesting that you hear the church tower from the village in the distance, not that the witches are actually dancing their ronde *inside* the belfry.

Thanks.  Yeah, I know how it is supposed to be.  It is supposed to be more 'background noise', I realize.  I find in some cases it is WAY too quiet though.

Thank you for the recommendation though, I may just check it out for my own benefit.   :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: madaboutmahler on September 01, 2011, 08:37:06 AM
My overall favourite, which I am not sure if it has been mentioned or not here yet, is Sir Colin Davis' with the Royal Concertgebouw on Phillips. What an amazing orchestra, and a very exciting, enjoyable interpretation. My other favourites would be Gardiner, Rattle (surprised no one has mentioned him!) and Beecham.
I also think that Nézet-Séguin's are well worth the listen!

Daniel
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on September 01, 2011, 08:42:20 AM
My overall favourite, which I am not sure if it has been mentioned or not here yet, is Sir Colin Davis' with the Royal Concertgebouw on Phillips.

Oh! I've got that one . . . .
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: madaboutmahler on September 01, 2011, 08:46:45 AM
Oh! I've got that one . . . .

What do you think of it, Karl?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: karlhenning on September 01, 2011, 08:50:59 AM
What do you think of it, Karl?

Haven't heard it in a while, Daniel . . . offhand, I think I remember a Muti/Phila, and both the Munch/BSO recordings, being a bit more vivid;  but I am sure I have no quarrel to Sir Colin.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Que on September 01, 2011, 08:59:25 AM
My overall favourite, which I am not sure if it has been mentioned or not here yet, is Sir Colin Davis' with the Royal Concertgebouw on Phillips. What an amazing orchestra, and a very exciting, enjoyable interpretation.

An amazing orchestra, yes indeed. But that recording was the first of the Symphony fantastique that I got, and it was rather a dissapointment to me. Many years later I got Markevitch and the BPO, rediscovered the piece and I never looked back...

Q
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brahmsian on September 01, 2011, 09:23:45 AM
My overall favourite, which I am not sure if it has been mentioned or not here yet, is Sir Colin Davis' with the Royal Concertgebouw on Phillips. What an amazing orchestra, and a very exciting, enjoyable interpretation. My other favourites would be Gardiner, Rattle (surprised no one has mentioned him!) and Beecham.
I also think that Nézet-Séguin's are well worth the listen!

Daniel

I've got Sir Colin Davis with the LSO (it is fantastique - pun intended!).  That's my favorite version.  I also have Charles Dutoit/Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, but don't enjoy it as much as Davis/LSO.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: madaboutmahler on September 01, 2011, 10:41:03 AM
An amazing orchestra, yes indeed. But that recording was the first of the Symphony fantastique that I got, and it was rather a dissapointment to me. Many years later I got Markevitch and the BPO, rediscovered the piece and I never looked back...

Q

That's a shame! But yes, the Markevitch is certainly amazing!
Oh yes, Munch is certainly excellent, I agree Karl! Have not heard the Muti though, will have to take a listen.

I've got Sir Colin Davis with the LSO (it is fantastique - pun intended!).  That's my favorite version.  I also have Charles Dutoit/Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, but don't enjoy it as much as Davis/LSO.

haha :) I rather like that Davis LSO recording as well. :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on September 01, 2011, 02:19:19 PM
Top ones in my mind would have to include:

Markevich/BPO
Rattle/BPO
Jansons/Concertgebouw
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: DavidW on September 01, 2011, 04:31:26 PM
Munch, Beecham and Davis are my favs.  Minkowski is on my to listen list because I haven't tried PI Berlioz. :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on September 01, 2011, 05:48:18 PM
Minkowski is on my to listen list because I haven't tried PI Berlioz. :)

As far as PI Berlioz, if you get a chance try Gardiner's recording of Romeo and Juliette. It's one of the best things I've heard from Gardiner:






Title: 1967 Munch/Orchestre de Paris - BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Scion7 on March 14, 2012, 01:43:50 AM
   image clickage

(http://s17.postimage.org/cyqdaoqmn/BERLIOZ_Symph_Fant_Munch_Orchde_Paris_LP.jpg)

This is the USA edition of this 1967 recording - good recording but not one of EMI-Angel's best pressings - which usually left something to be desired.
Munch died in 1968 while touring this symphony and other works, about a year after the album was made.  Munch has a unique take on Berlioz here -
a more faithful and arguably better version of Berlioz's work is the 1991 John Eliot Gardiner with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, for example.

I would have loved to have found a mint copy of the European edition back then in the early Seventies (pre-CDCDCD and nope won't go looking to find one now) -
nicer cover if nothing else - and I'm sure the surfaces would have been better:

(http://s14.postimage.org/54utmep4h/Berlioz_Symph_Fant_French_German_LPs.jpg)

Many critics preferred his earlier (mono) version with the Boston Symphony.

One of the interesting things about this recording is that a direct comparison is possible by obtaining (if you can find it) the CD issue of Munch's 1967 recording of the same piece with the Orchestre de Paris (released in Europe on EMI 737222, not generally available here. I found a copy in "Street Side Records" in their "Imported discs" bin. That company has since gone bankrupt.) Anyway, it was on LP, too. That performance is a good recording, though a bit cavernous. I sometimes feel it has a more sensual texture than the RCA recording. It also has less adrenaline, however, coming in almost three minutes slower than the Boston Symphony Orchestra recording. This is not just a matter of speed.
            and
This is particularly sad in the case of this Munch/OdP reading of the Symphomie Fantastique. It’s a marvellous reading, but has long lived under the shadow of the earlier Living Stereo with the Boston Orchestra, as well as being marred by early teething problems and some iffy playing with the brand new Paris orchestra.

There is a recent SACD version of the 1967 version with the 'Paris - AVOID.
By all accounts the mastering is horrible, and there have been questions of mis-management about the production of that release.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: bigshot on February 22, 2013, 03:44:08 PM
I like a wide range of classical music, but there are a few scattered works that I've butted my head up against through multiple versions and just haven't connected with it. First and foremost among these problem pieces is Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. I have at least nine different versions, and I can't make any sense out of it.

Another one of my problem pieces was Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. The work seemed disconnected to me, with rapid changes in mood that feel like whiplash, even knowing the programmatic elements involved. Some conductors took an overall approach, wallpapering over the join with a thick orchestral sound that made the orchestration like a densely packed tangle of thorns. I've never heard a version that picked out the parts in the arrangement and presented them clearly, and at the same time presented the strong emotional contrasts with natural transitions between them. Until today... Stokowski's version on Decca is amazing. It feels unified, while still playing up the Technicolor mood swings... kind of like Strauss' best tone poems. I'm happy with the piece now.

I'll keep butting up against Bartok. I love his stuff based on folk songs, so there's hope.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: xochitl on February 22, 2013, 04:06:48 PM
szell's recording of the bartok really cleared it up for me
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: snyprrr on February 22, 2013, 04:24:35 PM
VICTORY!
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: bigshot on February 22, 2013, 05:08:06 PM
I'll look for Szell. I generally like his stuff. Thanks for the tip!
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on February 22, 2013, 05:16:13 PM
Wasn't it Szell made a cut in the Concerto for Orchestra?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Todd on February 22, 2013, 05:19:58 PM
Wasn't it Szell made a cut in the Concerto for Orchestra?



Yes, and it is most unfortunate.  I'd recommend a pretty wide array of recordings before Szell: Reiner (RCA), Fricsay (DG), Dorati (Mercury), Fischer (Philips), or Kocsis (Hungaroton), for instance.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: John Copeland on February 22, 2013, 06:33:15 PM
Another one of my problem pieces was Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique...I've never heard a version that picked out the parts in the arrangement and presented them clearly, and at the same time presented the strong emotional contrasts with natural transitions between them. Until today... Stokowski's version on Decca is amazing. It feels unified, while still playing up the Technicolor mood swings...

There is an old version of Berlioz Fantastique by Dimitri Mitropoulos with the NYPO 1958 which has the same kind of fabulousness...

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Jia-D1IML._SL500_.jpg)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: ibanezmonster on February 22, 2013, 09:49:12 PM
Wasn't it Szell made a cut in the Concerto for Orchestra?
???
Szell is the one I have... I don't remember hearing extra material from browsing other performances on youtube, but that would be funny if I wasn't listening to the whole thing all along.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on February 23, 2013, 04:15:06 AM
There is an old version of Berlioz Fantastique by Dimitri Mitropoulos with the NYPO 1958 which has the same kind of fabulousness...

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Jia-D1IML._SL500_.jpg)

Is that a Japanese issue?  I've never seen a Sony CD of this.  I agree that it is fabulous.

EDIT: Ah, here it is:



At those prices, I'll stick with my Lps.

It's listed at Amazon.jp as having been released last year, but I don't see it at HMV.jp.

http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B009GN7992

and cdjapan has it:

http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=SICC-1600

Looks like some other good Mitropoulos recordings are available, too, though I wish Sony would issue a Mitropoulos box.

...and I ordered it from cdjapan.  Not riduclously expensive, since the Yen has fallen against the dollar recently.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Leo K. on February 23, 2013, 10:17:20 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71nVkD-YoLL._SY300_.jpg)

I've been listening to this one this week, actually the only version I own, but I recently acquired the Colin Davis box of Berlioz's orchestral works to expand my Berlioz horizons.

I love Norrington's Berlioz, so much so I never needed another version, but I thought I'd give Davis a try. I'm confident it's good.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on November 28, 2015, 06:40:58 AM
I have just listened to the Abbado version....


(http://cfile9.uf.tistory.com/image/132475224B132579B504B3)


....and I quite enjoyed it.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on November 28, 2015, 01:39:42 PM
I highly recommend the spectacular Ozawa/Boston on Pentatone.  Short measure, but not painful at the Marketplace price.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on November 28, 2015, 01:42:03 PM
I highly recommend the spectacular Ozawa/Boston on Pentatone.  Short measure, but not painful at the Marketplace price.



I will try to sample that. Thank you.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: jochanaan on November 28, 2015, 07:59:05 PM
If one doesn't mind "historical sound," there is a fine old Fantastique by Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony that is still, sort of, my go-to standard Fantastique, even more than the Colin Davis/Concertgebouw recording--which I actually think doesn't come anywhere near the excitement of Davis' Harold in Italy with the London Symphony.

I need to find the Gardiner/ORR recording again.  I seem to recall hearing it on radio and liking it, especially those deep, deep bells in the Witches' Sabbat. 8)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on November 29, 2015, 03:03:24 AM
If one doesn't mind "historical sound," there is a fine old Fantastique by Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony that is still, sort of, my go-to standard Fantastique, even more than the Colin Davis/Concertgebouw recording--which I actually think doesn't come anywhere near the excitement of Davis' Harold in Italy with the London Symphony.

I need to find the Gardiner/ORR recording again.  I seem to recall hearing it on radio and liking it, especially those deep, deep bells in the Witches' Sabbat. 8)

A friend told me that the Monteux was well worth hearing and it has been on my List for some time now. I must get around to buying it.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on November 30, 2015, 04:27:22 AM
The "old murky" sound notwithstanding, I do really enjoy the Monteux/SFSO, and both of the Munch/BSO reissues.  Wouldn't want them to be my only accounts of the piece; but I like them very well.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on December 09, 2015, 02:23:08 PM
I thought that I would register this one here....


(http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/3/JPG_400/MI0001/065/MI0001065379.jpg?partner=allrovi.com)


A strong performance; I really enjoyed it. Recommended listening.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 26, 2016, 02:04:32 PM
I find this to be an amazing work both in terms of the vision/imagination behind the work itself and the execution of that vision in terms of the orchestration and orchestral colour used to achieve that vision, and so very innovative when one considers when it was written. It is a work that I come back to from time to time and enjoy very much. It is a great listen; very exciting with a rich sound world.

I am currently working my way through my CD versions of this work which will then be followed by my listening to my vinyl collection.
The versions that I have in my collection are as follows:

Abbado – Chicago Symphony Orchestra [DG]
Beecham – French National Radio Radio Orchestra [EMI]
Bernstein – New York Philharmonic [CBS]
Van Beinum – Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam [Richmond]
Cluytens – Philharmonia Orchestra [Seraphim]
Davis – London Symphony Orchestra [Philips]
Davis – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra [Philips]
Eschenbach - Orchestre de Paris [Naive]
Gardiner – Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique [Philips]
Von Karajan – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [DG]
Markevitch = Orchestre Lamoureux [DG]
Martinon – Orchestre National de l’ORTF [EMI]
Mehta – New York Philharmonic [Decca]
Munch – Boston Symphony Orchestra [RCA]
Norrington – London Classical Players [EMI]
Ozawa – Toronto Symphony [CBS]   
Zecchi – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra [Supraphon]


Planned acquisitions are:

Markevitch [Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra]
Monteux


However, are there any glaring omissions from the above list?
Am I missing any important interpretation?

This thread goes back as far as 2007 and runs up to 2013 until some very recent posts. Have members’ favourites or recommendations changed over the intervening years?







Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: North Star on January 26, 2016, 02:25:08 PM
Based on this blind comparison, you might want to look at least at Paray, Solti, & Stokowski.

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21089.msg701873.html#msg701873
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 26, 2016, 02:32:32 PM
Based on this blind comparison, you might want to look at least at Paray, Solti, & Stokowski.

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21089.msg701873.html#msg701873

Thank you for that link; much appreciated  ;) ;)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Jo498 on January 26, 2016, 02:37:44 PM
MishaK who seems to be really fond of the piece highly recommends Pretre/Vienna Symphony/Teldec. As this can be found very cheaply (or used) in several of Teldec/warners cheapo series you can easily try for yourself. (I have it but do not remember it well enough)

I am not sure if I am confusing it with Harold (I think I was very impressed with both but of course there is far less competition for Harold which is also a less convincing piece I am afraid) but Scherchen's 1950s recording is one of the "craziest". There is a 4 CD set "Nixa recordings" that is fairly expensive, unless on sale. With some patience one should not have to pay more than 20-25 EUR.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: ZauberdrachenNr.7 on January 26, 2016, 02:52:13 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71nVkD-YoLL._SY300_.jpg)

I've been listening to this one this week, actually the only version I own, but I recently acquired the Colin Davis box of Berlioz's orchestral works to expand my Berlioz horizons.

I love Norrington's Berlioz, so much so I never needed another version, but I thought I'd give Davis a try. I'm confident it's good.

I think most highly of it - my wife rates it topmost among the thirty or so recordings of it I own! 
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 27, 2016, 09:10:25 AM
MishaK who seems to be really fond of the piece highly recommends Pretre/Vienna Symphony/Teldec. As this can be found very cheaply (or used) in several of Teldec/warners cheapo series you can easily try for yourself. (I have it but do not remember it well enough)

I am not sure if I am confusing it with Harold (I think I was very impressed with both but of course there is far less competition for Harold which is also a less convincing piece I am afraid) but Scherchen's 1950s recording is one of the "craziest". There is a 4 CD set "Nixa recordings" that is fairly expensive, unless on sale. With some patience one should not have to pay more than 20-25 EUR.



Thank you for that. I must look up the Pretre version.

I am curious by what you mean by the "craziest" version; do you mean interpretation or performance or something else altogether?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Jo498 on January 27, 2016, 09:25:09 AM
Have you heard any other recording with Scherchen? With "crazy" I mean very strong contrasts of tempo, mood etc., generally high intensity, turning lots of parameters up to 12. With many, even good recordings (e.g. Davis) one experiences an established, serious symphony, not a drug-induced nightmare that must have been shocking to the musical establishment (who in France, according to Berlioz, could not even accept most middle period Beethoven in the 1830s). Scherchen is closer than most to the opium delirium.

The sound is decent mono and while I would have to re-listen, I think the orchestra is better than on many others of Scherchen's recordings (do not expect modern or drill sergeant ensemble quality, though).

But try to listen, I do not want to induce you to shell out for a 4-disc-set (I can't comment on the non-Berlioz items in the NIXA set, I do not think I ever heard them) on hearsay...
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 27, 2016, 09:36:21 AM
Have you heard any other recording with Scherchen? With "crazy" I mean very strong contrasts of tempo, mood etc., generally high intensity, turning lots of parameters up to 12. With many, even good recordings (e.g. Davis) one experiences an established, serious symphony, not a drug-induced nightmare that must have been shocking to the musical establishment (who in France, according to Berlioz, could not even accept most middle period Beethoven in the 1830s). Scherchen is closer than most to the opium delirium.

The sound is decent mono and while I would have to re-listen, I think the orchestra is better than on many others of Scherchen's recordings (do not expect modern or drill sergeant ensemble quality, though).

But try to listen, I do not want to induce you to shell out for a 4-disc-set (I can't comment on the non-Berlioz items in the NIXA set, I do not think I ever heard them) on hearsay...

Thank you very much for that explanation. I am not familiar with Scherchen but I must admit that I am intrigued by your post. That recording sounds very interesting to me; the music is, or proports to be, drug-induced so anything that tries to replicate that would be interesting to me. I will see if I can get a copy on vinyl somewhere.
Thanks again  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Tsaraslondon on January 27, 2016, 10:04:18 AM
Have you heard any other recording with Scherchen? With "crazy" I mean very strong contrasts of tempo, mood etc., generally high intensity, turning lots of parameters up to 12. With many, even good recordings (e.g. Davis) one experiences an established, serious symphony, not a drug-induced nightmare that must have been shocking to the musical establishment (who in France, according to Berlioz, could not even accept most middle period Beethoven in the 1830s). Scherchen is closer than most to the opium delirium.

The sound is decent mono and while I would have to re-listen, I think the orchestra is better than on many others of Scherchen's recordings (do not expect modern or drill sergeant ensemble quality, though).

But try to listen, I do not want to induce you to shell out for a 4-disc-set (I can't comment on the non-Berlioz items in the NIXA set, I do not think I ever heard them) on hearsay...

This Scherchen certainly sounds interesting. I've found it on Spotify and am listening to the first movement, which does indeed abound in tempo contrasts, bringing out Berlioz's weirdness, something that I've always felt Davis never shied away from, unlike, say, Karajan, who tries to make the symphony sound like any early nineteenth century symphonic work, ironing out its idiosyncrasies and originality.

But Sherchen goes one further than Davis. So far I'm liking it very much, but wishing he enjoyed Davis's warm analogue Philips sound.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 27, 2016, 01:47:54 PM
.... So far I'm liking it very much, but wishing he enjoyed Davis's warm analogue Philips sound.

Older mono sound is not a bother for me as I still live with many older mono vinyl editions of various works; so that would not put me off any prospective purchase.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Que on January 27, 2016, 03:37:01 PM
[...]

Planned acquisitions are:

Markevitch [Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra]

A good choice IMO.  :)

Q
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on January 28, 2016, 08:46:50 AM
A good choice IMO.  :)

Q

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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Que 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
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Pat B 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brian 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on February 05, 2016, 10:44:50 AM
Very nicely played, sieur.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Pat B 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.

:)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: springrite 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Pat B 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 (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21089.0.html). I, however, file it in the "interesting alternative" category.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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 (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21089.0.html). 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.  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on October 22, 2016, 07:21:29 AM
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [Markevitch/Berliner Philharmoniker]....


(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51vKhHbeKtL._SY355_.jpg)


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.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on October 22, 2016, 07:22:55 AM
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [Markevitch/Orchestre Lamoureux, Paris]....


(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/618TukCMnkL._SS500.jpg)


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.

Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK 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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto 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  :)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on July 24, 2020, 12:11:23 PM
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique [van Otterloo]


(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71gACImT-nL._AC_SL1200_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on July 31, 2020, 12:55:58 PM
Oh, wow. I did not know that existed. When was that Otterloo disc recorded?
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on August 02, 2020, 12:44:18 AM
Oh, wow. I did not know that existed. When was that Otterloo disc recorded?

I have checked the CD but it does not give that information, unfortunately.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Biffo on August 02, 2020, 12:50:07 AM
I have checked the CD but it does not give that information, unfortunately.

His discography (Discogs) gives the year as 1954.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on August 02, 2020, 12:58:44 AM
His discography (Discogs) gives the year as 1954.

Thank you for that.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Biffo on August 02, 2020, 01:52:42 AM
Until it woke from its slumbers a week or so ago I didn't know this thread existed. I paged back for a while and found some of the comments interesting though I haven't read everything.

The French magazine Classica has a regular feature where available versions of a work are reviewed and a best version decided on. A short list of eight is chosen and three guest critics listen to it blind and rank the recordings in order, with comments. In the February 2017 issue the work under scrutiny was the Symphoninie fantastique so I thought it might be of interest. All three guest critics were French. There is no indication who made the short list. In reverse order recordings were -

No 8 - Jos van Immerseel/Anima aeterna - two of the critics thought it had some interesting points, the third rejected it completely.

No 7. Colin Davis/LSO (1963) - they acknowledged its status as an historic reference of the work but had various reservations.

No 6. John Eliot Gardiner/ORR - they seemed to enjoy it but felt the dry acoustic of the Conservatoire Hall (the original venue) let it down.

No 5. Leonard Bernstein/NYPO - they enjoyed 'la charme et la noblesse' of this performance

No 4. Charles Munch/ Boston SO (1954) - 'une grande reference' - they definitely liked it!

No 3. Pierre Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra - admired for its beauty of sound and the playing of the Clevelanders

No 2. Colin Davis/Concertgebouw Orchestra - sumptuous and virtuosic (the orchestra), elegant (Davis)

No 1. Paul Paray/Detroit Symphony Orchestra - a jewel ('diamant') of the discography. Limitless imagination in the interpretation.

Though it is a fine performance I was a bit surprised Paray was the top choice, I will have to revisit it soon. My all time favourite is still Davis/LSO (1963) though Martinon/ORTF Orchestra runs it close.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aligreto on August 02, 2020, 02:42:29 AM
I have not heard the Paul Paray/Detroit Orchestra version.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Irons on August 02, 2020, 04:25:03 AM
I have not heard the Paul Paray/Detroit Orchestra version.

Surprisingly, I have the CD. Must have purchased in the early 1990's and spent the last 30 years on a shelf in a room I grandly call my study. Thanks to Biffo it will migrate downstairs and will get a play in the not too distant future.
Hard to believe due to his reputation, but the Klemperer SF is very good.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brian on August 02, 2020, 05:09:27 AM
I have not heard the Paray either. We on GMG once did an epic blind listening game of the Symphonie, but as I recall, none of the really thrilling recordings (e.g. Bernstein or Munch) made the final round, with the result that it became Davis/Concertgebouw vs. Martinon. I could be wrong. It didn't really help change my favorites...but now Paray I must find...
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: TheGSMoeller on August 02, 2020, 07:44:07 AM

No 8 - Jos van Immerseel/Anima aeterna - two of the critics thought it had some interesting points, the third rejected it completely.


No 4. Charles Munch/ Boston SO (1954) - 'une grande reference' - they definitely liked it!


I just listened to these two the other day! And it's almost as night-&-day as you can get with fantastique recordings. The Munch/Boston is so incredibly exciting, it contains the necessary edge at the right times. The Immerseel's atmosphere is very light in comparison to others, but I love the smooth and haunting tone that Anima aeterna produces. Plus it's the only recording I own (which is at least 15) that uses a piano rather than bells during the dies irae.
 

I have not heard the Paray either. We on GMG once did an epic blind listening game of the Symphonie, but as I recall, none of the really thrilling recordings (e.g. Bernstein or Munch) made the final round, with the result that it became Davis/Concertgebouw vs. Martinon. I could be wrong. It didn't really help change my favorites...but now Paray I must find...

I think the Martinon won.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 02, 2020, 08:13:20 AM
I just listened to these two the other day! And it's almost as night-&-day as you can get with fantastique recordings. The Munch/Boston is so incredibly exciting, it contains the necessary edge at the right times. The Immerseel's atmosphere is very light in comparison to others, but I love the smooth and haunting tone that Anima aeterna produces. Plus it's the only recording I own (which is at least 15)

That's a tumbrilful of fantastique!
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Que on August 02, 2020, 08:15:06 AM
I found the Davis/RCO terribly unexciting...  ::)

The problem with multicritic choices or listening contests is that you end up with the biggest common denominator, which is possibly nobody's first choice....

Q
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: André on August 02, 2020, 09:04:14 AM
The piano in van Immerseel’s account is indeed rather special. A very nice account. I also like Ansermet, for diametrically opposed reasons. It’s one of the clearest, least eccentric versions around. You can count on Ansermet to tell it as it is, no more, no less. He is less ‘symphonic’ than Davis, Munch or Karajan, more attentive to various instrumental/harmonic details.

That being said, Karajan II remains my benchmark version. I know I am in a tiny minority here, but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn  ;D.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Jo498 on August 02, 2020, 09:11:29 AM
I found the Davis/RCO terribly unexciting...  ::)
It's a rather unspectacular "philharmonic" version, one would probably rather expect from a German or Austrian conductor.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: MishaK on August 02, 2020, 01:11:40 PM
His discography (Discogs) gives the year as 1954.

Quite odd of the Berliners to do three recordings of the work in short succession and none of them with their music director (Marekevich, Otterloo, Kempe).

I found the Davis/RCO terribly unexciting...  ::)

The problem with multicritic choices or listening contests is that you end up with the biggest common denominator, which is possibly nobody's first choice....

Q

More likely just the bias toward British performers of the major audiophile magazines. In all fairness, Davis is amazingly precise about following every tiny detail in the score. His is a recording worth following with score in hand. I would say, though, that of his various traversals, the last one on LSO Live is the most compelling.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: some guy on August 02, 2020, 04:33:52 PM
Thanks for this, Biffo. Very interesting picks.

I'm not surprised by the Paray. He never managed to build a huge reputation, but his recordings range from solid to inspired.

I'm more surprised that the Martinon you mentioned didn't make the short list. Martinon's another one whose talent far exceeds his reputation. Not as far as Paray but still pretty far.

Until it woke from its slumbers a week or so ago I didn't know this thread existed. I paged back for a while and found some of the comments interesting though I haven't read everything.

The French magazine Classica has a regular feature where available versions of a work are reviewed and a best version decided on. A short list of eight is chosen and three guest critics listen to it blind and rank the recordings in order, with comments. In the February 2017 issue the work under scrutiny was the Symphoninie fantastique so I thought it might be of interest. All three guest critics were French. There is no indication who made the short list. In reverse order recordings were -

No 8 - Jos van Immerseel/Anima aeterna - two of the critics thought it had some interesting points, the third rejected it completely.

No 7. Colin Davis/LSO (1963) - they acknowledged its status as an historic reference of the work but had various reservations.

No 6. John Eliot Gardiner/ORR - they seemed to enjoy it but felt the dry acoustic of the Conservatoire Hall (the original venue) let it down.

No 5. Leonard Bernstein/NYPO - they enjoyed 'la charme et la noblesse' of this performance

No 4. Charles Munch/ Boston SO (1954) - 'une grande reference' - they definitely liked it!

No 3. Pierre Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra - admired for its beauty of sound and the playing of the Clevelanders

No 2. Colin Davis/Concertgebouw Orchestra - sumptuous and virtuosic (the orchestra), elegant (Davis)

No 1. Paul Paray/Detroit Symphony Orchestra - a jewel ('diamant') of the discography. Limitless imagination in the interpretation.

Though it is a fine performance I was a bit surprised Paray was the top choice, I will have to revisit it soon. My all time favourite is still Davis/LSO (1963) though Martinon/ORTF Orchestra runs it close.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on August 02, 2020, 04:41:02 PM
No 5. Leonard Bernstein/NYPO - they enjoyed 'la charme et la noblesse' of this performance

Did they say whether they selected the 1963 or the 1968 (or either?)
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Biffo on August 03, 2020, 12:19:54 AM
Did they say whether they selected the 1963 or the 1968 (or either?)

Definitely the 1963 recording with the NYPO. I didn't know about the 1968 version. I also have the recording he made with the French National Orchestra - dated 1977 on the HMV disc.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Daverz on August 03, 2020, 02:46:07 AM
Definitely the 1963 recording with the NYPO. I didn't know about the 1968 version. I also have the recording he made with the French National Orchestra - dated 1977 on the HMV disc.

Hurwitz feels that all the Bernstein recordings are too "sober".  (Sorry, very embarassing senior moment, I got that wrong; it was some other work where Bernstein's recordings were to sober, I can't recall what it was at the moment.  Bernstein's Fantastique was actually one of his recommendations.)  I was a bit taken aback by that.  Also, that Davis is dull, a more familiar opinion.  I wonder what these French critics would make of Les Siècles.

https://www.youtube.com/v/9dLB1M2DvlQ
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Biffo on August 03, 2020, 02:51:49 AM
Hurwitz feels that all the Bernstein recordings are too "sober".  I was a bit taken aback by that.  Also, that Davis is dull, a more familiar opinion.  I wonder what these French critics would make of Les Siècles.

https://www.youtube.com/v/9dLB1M2DvlQ

Not my opinion, doesn't surprise me Hurwitz finds him dull.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Biffo on August 03, 2020, 03:22:18 AM
Not my opinion, doesn't surprise me Hurwitz finds him dull.

Edit: Les Siecles' recording is reviewed in Classica and Diapason (December 2019) though not by any of the critics who took part in the blind test. Both magazines give the recording five stars (or equivalent).
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: aukhawk on August 03, 2020, 03:38:23 AM
I have not heard the Paray either. We on GMG once did an epic blind listening game of the Symphonie, but as I recall, none of the really thrilling recordings (e.g. Bernstein or Munch) made the final round, with the result that it became Davis/Concertgebouw vs. Martinon. I could be wrong. It didn't really help change my favorites...but now Paray I must find...

Paray was joint 2nd (out of 18) with Davis/CO, in that blind listen.
https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21089.280.html

I remember finding the dated sound rather hard to take - even though it's from Mercury's golden age and I'm a big admirer of those recordings.  I note HDTT have remastered it, but in general I've been unimpressed with their 'improvements'.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2020, 03:52:14 AM
You could decorate a man cave with fine-to-excellent recordings that Herb-wits finds "dull."
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: André on August 03, 2020, 05:33:51 AM
Hurwitz feels that all the Bernstein recordings are too "sober".  (Sorry, very embarassing senior moment, I got that wrong; it was some other work where Bernstein's recordings were to sober, I can't recall what it was at the moment.  Bernstein's Fantastique was actually one of his recommendations.)  I was a bit taken aback by that.  Also, that Davis is dull, a more familiar opinion.  I wonder what these French critics would make of Les Siècles.

https://www.youtube.com/v/9dLB1M2DvlQ

Quite interesting, thanks. I think he’s a bit harsh on Davis, but he dislikes all british conductors, so no surprise there. I agree with his opinion on Karajan II, it really is in a class of its own. I must explore Janowski and MTT.
Title: Re: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Post by: Brian on August 03, 2020, 05:52:00 AM
Not sure that comment on being harsh on all British conductors is true; he's had a great deal of praise for Andrew Davis' Teldec recordings, a bunch of stuff on Lyrita, and arguably one of his favorite conductors ever is Alexander Gibson. And there are 14 reviews of 10/10 on his site for Colin Davis, plus a few "historic" 10/8s and 10/9s. (One of the 10/10s, an LSO Elgar 2, begins, "When Colin Davis is on form, he’s as engaging, exciting, and convincing as any conductor living or dead.")