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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After more than half a century the performance and recording is still sensational!, 9 July 2009
By 
Colin Fortune (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Symphonie Fantastique (Munch, Boston So) [Sacd/CD Hybrid] (Audio CD)
Charles Munch's performance of Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony is a classic of the gramophone: one of the very first stereo recordings made by RCA at a time when they did not have the technology to manufacture records in stereo. It was recorded in three tracks in November 1954 and was briefly available on reel to reel tape a year or so later but did not become available as a stereo recording until 1958. The present remastering is VERY up-front (you can almost hear the rosin on the strings) but it is detailed, rich and at a high level whilst also having a good sense of space.

Munch's view of the work is full of temperament. The feeling of the agonies of young love descending into drug-induced madness is caught better that anyone else I can think of. The instability of the first movement replicates the passions and reveries of the title; the ball scene whirls past at just over 6 minutes (no repeats, of course, as was common in the 1950's) with very telling harps; the country scene is one of the fastest on record and very sinister but then is followed by a steady and menacing March to the Scaffold. The Dream of the Witches' Sabbath is frantic and frenetic - quite wild. Nobody does this like Munch.

So, although there is no obligato cornet part in the Ball Scene and although the repeats are thin on the ground in all movements, this is a very special recording, with a vibrancy unsurpassed by any other. At current asking price from Amazon lovers of this hugely romantic and strange work should snap up one of the great interpretations of the century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another remarkable remastering from the early stereo days, 31 Mar 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Symphonie Fantastique (Munch, Boston So) [Sacd/CD Hybrid] (Audio CD)
This disc, compiled from recordings made as long ago as 1954 and 1961, has been very successfully remastered. As a result the tonal spectrum of the orchestra has been improved and the depth of field has been deepened. This Fantastic lives up to its name in a way that Berlioz did not have in mind.

As far as interpretations go, this is a typical Munch disc with plenty of emotional fire and drive. That is very suitable for most of this symphony bearing in mind the drug induced fantasies evoked and portrayed via the music. Munch's speeds are all on the sprightly side with little room for introspective considerations. This is a valid viewpoint.

The only issue I personally have with this approach is the rapid march to the scaffold which comes over as rather a jolly jaunt to rather a jolly occasion. This seems essentially unlikely. Boulez, on the other hand, once produced a performance so slow it sounded as if it was a slowed down rehearsal practice. That too seemed doubtful. There are many versions taking a safer and surer mid-course as regards a tempo for this particular movement.

The Romeo excerpt is well done with no provisos.

I would suggest that this disc will give admirers of Munch great cause for celebration. The same may be said of anyone interested in upgrading an earlier mastering to this new version. Other potential purchasers may wish to consider the issue over the March to the Scaffold tempo and decide of it should be jolly, and even exciting in a jolly way, or altogether more restrained with a degree of fear or trepidation made clear.

In conclusion this disc is a winner for at least two categories of purchasers as above and a possible consideration for others. A personal choice at that point.
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3 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classical Music - Berlioz, 25 May 2010
By 
Lorraine (Worcestershire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Symphonie Fantastique (Munch, Boston So) [Sacd/CD Hybrid] (Audio CD)
The Symphonie Fantastique is a very descriptive suite of music. The music matches the titles beautifully.
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