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Berlioz: Les nuits d'été / Harold en Italie

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Product details

  • Performer: Anne Sofie von Otter, Antoine Tamestit
  • Orchestra: Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble
  • Conductor: Marc Minkowski
  • Composer: Hector Berlioz
  • Audio CD (7 Nov. 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naive
  • ASIN: B005GBIM8U
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,058 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Harold en Italie, opus 16, Harold aux montagnes. Scènes de mélancolie, de bonheur et de joie - Antoine Tamestit/Trio Wanderer
2. Marche de pèlerins chantant la prière du soir - Anne Sofie von Otter/Les Musiciens Du Louvre - Grenoble
3. Sérénade d'un montagnard des Abruzzes à sa maîtresse - Les Musiciens Du Louvre - Grenoble
4. Orgie de brigands. Souvenirs des scènes précédentes
5. Les nuits d'été, opus 7, I. Villanelle
6. II. Le Spectre de la rose
7. III. Sur les Lagunes lamento
8. IV. Absence
9. V. Au Cimetière clair de lune
10. VI. L'Île inconnue
11. Le roi de thulé (chanson gothique extraite de La Damnation de Faust, opus 24)

Product Description

Product Description

On this new period instrument recording of "Les Nuits d'Été" and the symphony "Harold in Italy" by Hector Berlioz, from the award winning musical director Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, the featured soloists are two of the leading exponents of their art in recent years, the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the viola player Antoine Tamestit. Marc Minkowski is one of the most important conductors to have emerged since the 1990s. Over the last two decades he has carved out a niche for himself in the lesser-known works of the French and Italian Baroque. He began his career as a bassoonist, becoming a baroque specialist during his tenure with such ensembles as Les Arts Florissants, the Clemencic Consort of Vienna, and La Chapelle Royale. After taking first prize at the first International Early Music Competition in Bruges (1984), Minkowski founded his own early instrument ensemble, Les Musiciens du Louvre, with which he has made the bulk of his recordings. Born in Sweden, Anne Sofie von Otter's studies began in Stockholm and continued with Vera Rozsa at London's Guildhall before she became a principal artist of the Basel Opera from where an international career, which has now spanned more than two decades, was launched. Equally active in opera, concert, recital and recording and noted as one of the most versatile artists of her generation Anne Sofie von Otter appears regularly on the world's major stages and boasts an unrivalled discography. Antoine Tamestit was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist between 2004 and 2006. During this period he made several solo and concerto recordings for the radio with BBC orchestras throughout the UK, and recitals engagements, including his debut performance at London's Wigmore Hall in October 2005. In 2008 he won the prestigious Credit Suisse award. Personnel: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, Marc Minkowski (conductor)

BBC Review

Harold in Italy was commissioned from Berlioz by the virtuoso violinist Paganini, who wanted something to show off his fine new viola. Actually, that’s not quite true; Paganini thought he was paying for a flashy concerto, but what he got was a symphonic poem. The viola plays the part of Byron’s Childe Harold, while Berlioz relives his own happy memories of travelling the wilds of Italy, meeting the locals in the mountains, encountering priests, brigands, and travelling musicians. Paganini was disappointed, and never played it… and despite an enthusiasm for most Berlioz, I’ve tended to agree with Paganini, and never quite hit it off with Harold. Until now.

Why the change of heart? Well, let’s look at the forces: Mark Minkowski’s ensemble Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble on period instruments, and for a band that began with the baroque, this is serious mission-creep, and their approach changes things in all kinds of subtle ways. Antoine Tamestit is the viola soloist, and from his gentle, folk-like first entry, and the breathless hush with which it’s echoed, there’s genuine intimacy, and the most delicate accompaniment. The plangent melancholy of the solo viola’s upper reaches contrasts beautifully with its woody depths; there’s the piquant edge of the winds, the purposeful gleam of brass; darker colours and lighter textures than a modern orchestra, and a subtle rebalancing of dynamics – so much seems like chamber music. Minkowski finds a lightning-fast response to Berlioz’s sudden outbursts, easily flowing tempos, and scurrying strings and razor-sharp attack in the Brigands’ Orgy – and everything worked out with Paganini, who was dazzled by the score when he finally heard it.

The same sense of seductive intimacy pervades Berlioz’s song cycle Summer Nights, and while mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter may not have quite the purity of tone which graced her previous recording, she seems to emerge from inside these songs, and the deliciously moulded accompaniments support her with grace and rare sensitivity. The transparency and detail are a tribute to the recording as well as the playing, the booklet is luxuriously appointed with evocative landscapes, and there’s a nice bonus: Otter and Tamestit together at the end for Marguerite’s song of the King of Thule from Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. I’ll be damned: at last an account of Berlioz’s Harold I want to keep.

--Andrew McGregor

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By Mr. Mt Hebert on 11 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD
Best version of the nuits d'ete. However if
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Eric Shanes on 26 Jan. 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This cannot be recommended. The slow movement is taken far too quickly, so that instead of evoking a dignified procession of monks it sounds like a group of them out jogging, and the solo viola is made to sound here more like a jews harp though over-exaggeration of the sul ponticello effect. Moreover, the acoustic is far too boxy, which makes the orchestra sound very small. There are many other, far better performances on record, not least of all those conducted by Colin Davis and Bernstein.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Essential for all Berlioz fans. 19 May 2012
By pekinman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Love is a topic often taken up by composers, a few of whom are known for their special expression of this greatest human experience; Mozart, Schubert and Wagner are notable for their compositions essaying Love's raptures and tortures. But of all of the great masters who've undertaken to express this complicated and ephemeral emotion I think Hector Berlioz gets closest to the soul of the subject, conveying with often heart-breaking sensitivity and tonal beauty his own experiences, famously with the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, whom he married. That didn't end well.

Berlioz had the great advantage of composing in a period of musical history when frontiers were being forged in tonality, subject matter and, most especially, orchestration, something for which he was a supreme innovative master, perhaps the greatest orchestrator before his French compatriot Maurice Ravel, who also, by the way, had a knack for evoking love and passion in his music.

Les nuits d'été is one of Berlioz's supreme masterpieces. It's a solemn song cycle but full of glowing feelings that transcend the sad subject matter in the majority of the songs, songs about death, loss, separation and haunting nostalgia.

This new recording on the Naïve label by Marc Minkowski, featuring the great Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, catapults to the top of the heap of recordings of this masterpiece. It is quite simply a stunningly beautiful recording in every respect. I haven't heard von Otter sing this beautifully since her early days when she became famous singing Mozart and Strauss. Happily her infrequent forays in to Wagner have not done her vocal harm. Her voice here is even more beautiful than I remember, though in Le roi de Thulé you can hear a slight widening of vibrato that often comes with age, Ms von Otter is over fifty but doesn't sound it at all.

If you want vocal refulgence in the song cycle you will prefer Régine Crespin's fabulous and famous recording with Ernest Ansermet with the Suisse Romande, in fine stereo sound, big and in your face, on Decca. Her singing is totally magnificent in tone color and word pointing. One of the great classics of the gramophone. And for pure vocal beauty and some surprisingly subtle nuanced singing you can't do better than Kiri the Kanawa with Daniel Barenboim on DG with the Orchestre de Paris.

BUT, von Otter takes the prize for emotional impact. Tears flow but not tears of depression but poignance and a response to utter gorgeousness of expression of human emotion.

This wonderful new recording starts off with an invigorating and eye-opening rendition of Harold in Italy. I have always been ambivalent about H.I.P. (historically informed performances) of the romantic composers (19th century), but with Berlioz I have often been completely won over by the work of conductors like John Eliot Gardiner and, now, Marc Minkowski.

The strings use vibrato but not too much, and there is a chamber-like quality to these pieces played here that is very appealing, never sounding anemic or fey. Intimacy is the keynote here, which is refreshing as Berlioz is often approached in a more bombastic sonically overwhelming Wagnerian manner. Nothing wrong with that in a work like Les Troyens but with these pieces on this record the more close-up and personal approach is very effective and memorable.

If you are not a Berlioz fan give this recording a try. It isn't a depressing experience at all, though it is also not a rollicking crazed trip like Symphonie fantastique or Roman Carnival overture.

If you are a devoted Berlioz addict like me you will be very pleased to have this recording in your collection. Great new Berlioz recordings are few and far between these days and it is a joy to recommend this Minkowski set with enthusiasm.

To top it all off the presentation is superb. I haven't ever encountered a booklet of such high quality as is contained in this single cd package.
There are many high quality prints of art within that illustrate the music very accurately. There is also a full libretto in English, French and German plus biographies and beautiful photographs of the artists in the recording session.

BRAVO!!!!! Naïve. More please.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An absolutely must !!! 26 Jan. 2012
By Maciej Chizynski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The new release by Marc Minkowski is an absolutely must for all the music fans.

Firstly "The Harold in Italy: : the viola player, Tamestit, plays with a beautiful, warm and colourful sound. He plays a Stradivarius viola and there have remained only 8 or 9 Stradivarius violas in the world nowadays.
Moreover Minkowski captures many beautiful and significiant details in the partition. Even arpeggios of the harp are well hearable.

Secondly "Les nuits d'ete" : Anne-Sofie von Otter, even if she is almost 60 yeras old, still delights us with her beautiful voice, her timbre, her vibrato and... still very strong emotions. She is a mature artist who understands perfectly the score. Even if her technique is not the same as 10-20 yeras ago - her voice begins to tremble a little bit in the high registers - her interpretation is very convincing, in my opinion better that her firts interpretation which she had recorded with Minkowski in the 80. of the XXth century.

A must, a reference to have !
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Berlioz's Harold with a period touch 4 Jan. 2012
By J.K. Tapio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
In 1831, after winning the Prix de Rome, Hector Berlioz spent some time in Rome and Italy. He did not much like the city but toured a lot in the Italian countyside, which left a lasting impression on him. Later he would use his Italian memories to shape his concertante symphony for viola and orchestra. Another influence was Lord Byron's poem Childe Harold; the melancholy wanderings of the protagonist are supposed to be reflected in the tone of the viola heard throughout the symphony. So the symphony got its name, "Harold en Italie".

The symphony was originally composed on a request from Niccolo Paganini, the famous violin virtuoso, who wanted a large-scale work where he could play the viola part. Nevertheless, Paganini refused to perform the completed work, claiming that it was not virtuosic enough; however, he liked the work so much that he paid Berlioz a considerable sum as a compensation.

The current disc is a superb version of this symphony, performed in a warm sound by Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble led by Marc Minkowski and recorded in the generous acoustics of the Opera Royal de Versailles. Those familiar with Minkowski's rendition of the Symphonie Fantastique of a few years back will recognize the same meticulous attention to detail and leisurely tempos. Yet Minkowski keeps it all admirably under control, and while the Symphonie Fantastique may have sounded too heavy-going to some listeners, there is hardly any problem with the tempos used here, or with the sound quality. Although the first movement, Harold in the mountains, lasts more than two minutes longer than in the classic version by Munch and the Boston SO, the playing is very beautiful and committed throughout and the ending is every bit as incisive as in Munch's version.

Indeed, Minkowski does a splendid job in opening up Berlioz's sound-world. Some of the nuances and tone colors heard on this CD are such that I don't remember hearing any comparable sounds in any other recording of a symphony, and listening to it made me realize again what a brilliant orchestrator Berlioz was.

The orchestra used on this CD has a lot to do with its original sound-world. Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble is an orchestra that uses period instruments and observes HIP, or historically-informed, performance practices. So here we have a version that might represent a close approximation of what listeners heard in Berlioz's time. The orchestral line-up even includes an ophicleide, a wind (brass) instrument which was invented and widely used in Berlioz's time but is no more featured in modern orchestras.

The same could be said of the song-cycle Les nuits d'été, of which Anne-Sofie von Otter gives a heart-felt performance with her impeccable French diction. Minkowski's conducting subtly highlights the orchestral detail, and I found it amazing how well von Otter's voice blends with the orhcestral colors. But perhaps this should come as no surprise, as von Otter, Minkowski and his orchestra have already collaborated on a variety of recordings.

The programme ends with the song Le roi de Thulé from Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, re-introducing the viola on the background and thus giving the CD an appropriate sense of a closure.

The booklet includes essays on the works themselves, an excerpt from Berlioz's Memoirs dealing with his relationship with Paganini in the context of HEI, as well as English and German translations of the original French lyrics. There are also many fine illustrations, both photographs and paintings, of Italian landscapes. However, the page numbers associated with the images and their explanations do not match, so that you have to do some detective work to connect text and image. But this is only a minor point, so whether you know this symphony well or are a newcomer to it, you could do well to investigate this splendid release.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A much different sound for Berlioz masterworks 21 May 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
We have become so accustomed to the sensual renderings of Hector Berolioz' wondrous song cycle `Les Nuits d'Eté' performed with large symphony orchestra and fluid mezzo soprano luxurious sound that we often forget the performing standards when Berlioz unveiled this work. It is therefore fascinating to hear the original instrumental accompaniment on this solid recording. Here is a different sound, thinner and perhaps less erotic that current performances but it is also refreshing to here the clarity of line and vocal production that Anne Sofie von Otter brings to this interpretation. For those who prefer her earlier recording and her concert performances with symphony orchestras this performance with Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble as conducted by Marc Minkowski may not be their cup of tea.

True, von Otter's voice is not as rich as it once was but her intense musicality rises above her limitations and gives her the opportunity to open phrasing and explore different emphases on the poetry than before. It is an elegant if not quite a sensual performance. She also performs an excerpt from Berlioz' `La Damnation de Faust'that is wholly convincing.

Where this recording shines in is the performance of a very clean, understated `Harold in Italy' that benefits greatly form the viola contributions by Antoine Tamestit. Minkowski and his ensemble deliver what just may be the most convincing and solid performance of this work on record. It is worth the purchase of this recording alone! Grady Harp, May 12
Berlioz: Les Nuits d'été; Harold en Italie 28 Mar. 2013
By Bjorn Viberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Berlioz: Les Nuits d'été; Harold en Italie is a 2011 Naive recording starring mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter and Viola player Antoine Tamesit. Marc Minkowski leads the Louvre Musicians. The booklet contains many fine paintings and well-written music notes. Being a fellow Scandinavian the performance of Anne Sofie Von Otter brings me a source of pride. Well done Ms. Von Otter. Highly recommended indeed. 5/5.
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