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The most misunderstood Berlioz?
This Symphony is one of the most known and preformed of the all-romantic repertoire. But, is it a "symphony"? Definitely, no. It is a large scale symphonic poem, maybe with the Beethoven's "Pastorale", the beginning of this orchestral genre. There are two forms to focus it: the purely abstract (romantic symphony) and, I think, the more "progressive" way (a tale told without words), wich was the one to prevail in the post-romantic period. There is a third one that ONLY one conductor achieved and is unclassified: the Sergiu Celibidache's approach, but this one plays in a league apart, and don't leave space for comparisons. Paray and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra clearly choose the "symphonic poem" vision, and more difficult in this so contrasted work, achieve a sense of unity that's anything but easy. Of course, there is the most appropriate for it (Celibidache always apart), but many conductors and orchestras just grasp the surface, failing in the two fiercely last movements in search of such spectacularly ending that is no neccesary to remark. Thankfully, this is not te case. Paul Paray and the DSO finds that difficult equilibrium that makes this gigantic orchestral work really interesting and no a sometimes half an hour of "training" for a bombastic finale. The Mercury original recording made by that genius who was Robert Woods is plenty of air, presence, pin-point detail and timbric accuracy (with headphones you can even hear from time to time, the pass of a page of the score or a small movement of any musician in his chair). The only thing that prevents me to give this HDTT edition five stars is a somewhat slight strident in the brass in the highest modulated passages. Very recommended.
A fantastic Fantastique
For the top shelf, next to Beecham and Munch.
Title: Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique op. 14
Artist(s): Paul Paray conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Recording Info: Transferred from a 15ips 2-track tape
Recorded by Mercury Records 28 November 1959 in the Cass Technical High School Auditorium, Detroit
Engineer – C. R. Fine
Engineer [Co-Engineer] – Robert Eberenz
Producer [Musical Director] – Harold Lawrence
Producer [Recording Director] – Wilma Cozart
I. Rêveries – Passions 11:30
II. Un bal 5:34
III. Scène aux champs 14:36
IV. Marche au supplice 4:25
VI. Songe d'une nuit du sabbat 8:59
Total Time: 45:04