Berlioz was the first Romantic master of the orchestra. His music hasn't been surpassed in terms of sheer brilliance and accuracy of effect. This set includes all of the overtures, the Symphonie fantastique, Harold in Italy, the Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, orchestral music from The Damnation of Faust and Romeo and Juliet, and the completely insane Grande Symphonie funebre et triumphale. Davis achieved his reputation as a conductor as a Berlioz specialist, and he proves an expert advocate on behalf of this stimulating, bizarre, and totally original genius.
Béatrice et Bénédict, Berlioz's last completed work, is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but the libretto, by the composer, dispenses with most of the intrigue of the original and reduces the plot to a single premise: Béatrice et Bénédict mask their affection for each other by squabbling, and then finally come to their senses and get married. Although designated an opera, it is closer in effect to an opéra comique because of its very extensive use of spoken dialogue.
Kiri Te Kanawa does well by these songs, avoiding the billowing excesses of sentiment that in other hands (or vocal chords) can make them sound much too soggy. Although Berlioz gathered them all together under the present title, all of the songs were composed at different times for different singers, so they aren't really a cycle at all. I seldom listen to all of them at once, and you should feel free to take them in any order that suits you. "The Death of Cleopatra" is an early cantata that perfectly suits Jessye Norman's stately delivery. She's always at her best playing royalty, and if they're dying in mortal agony, so much the better.
Oh my God! Wow!!! Are you ready to be terrorized by a March that literally makes you feel as if you ARE the person being marched to the scaffold or a Witch’s Sabbath that makes you feel as if Witches are right there harassing you? For the longest time I merely listened to the Symphonie Fantastique as a disinterested onlooker of the proceedings depicted in the music. I never felt an involvement with the music because of the performers involved—UNTIL NOW!!
Colin Davis’s 1969 recording remains a landmark event, the first time this grand opera of Meyerbeerian length, spectacular éclat and Wagnerian artistic ambition had found its way complete onto LP. It effectively changed views about Berlioz the opera composer and orchestral genius and has for many remained the yardstick by which all later performances have been judged. Although studio recorded, it was based on the Covent Garden casting of the day – Jon Vickers’s heroic Aeneas and Josephine Veasey’s voluptuous Dido – with a couple of Frenchmen to boost the ranks of lesser Trojans and Carthaginians…
…This is a performance that holds your attention from first note to last–a rare feat in this work. (Munch's later Deutsche Grammophon effort pales by comparison, both sonically and interpretively.) If you want this Berlioz Requiem (and you do), SACD is the way to hear it.
The nine-time Juno-winning Canadian James Ehnes is centre stage in a new recording of orchestral works by Berlioz, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. This recording was made following an extraordinary concert in November 2014 with the same forces, in which James Ehnes played two instruments made by Stradivarius, respectively a viola in the solo part of Harold en Italie – ‘symphony with a principal viola part’, in Berlioz’s words – and a violin in the solo of Rêverie et Caprice, both of which works feature here.
…His overwhelming natural affinity for French music made Charles Munch an ideal conductor for Berlioz’s swirling tour de force Symphonie Fantastique. Perfectly capturing the drama, romance & philosophical angst in which this masterpiece is marinated, Munch takes the Boston Symphony Orchestra on an epic journey of proportions only possible in the human heart & mind. A classic, reborn in vivid Living Stereo.
"Alain Lombard is among the leading French conductors from the latter half of the twentieth century. He has held numerous prestigious positions both in the operatic and orchestral realms. Lombard is best known for his interpretations of French opera, particularly of Bizet's Carmen, Gounod's Faust and Romeo et Juliette, Delibes' Lakmé, and Massenet's Werther. He has also garnered notice for his Puccini and Verdi, as well as for instrumental works by Berlioz, Debussy, and Ravel. Lombard's repertory is hardly limited to French and Italian music, however, as it takes in chunks of Prokofiev, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, and many others. He has made numerous recordings since the 1960s for a range of labels, including EMI, Elektra, Erato, Forlane, and Valois…"