Berlioz: Overtures (Sir Andrew Davis, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra) (Chandos: CHSA 5118) Hybrid SACD, SACD
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The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis here perform seven dazzling orchestral overtures by Hector Berlioz, a composer who excelled in blending literary and musical elements into highly energetic and personal creations.
The overtures are widely varied in mood, as are the operas from which they were drawn. Berlioz wrote his first large-scale instrumental composition, the Overture to Les Francs-juges, in 1826, the year in which he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire. Even though the opera itself was never performed, Berlioz remained proudly affectionate of the overture, which was played all over Germany and Holland in its early days. His second opera, Benvenuto Cellini, followed in 1838; its music gave rise both to the opera's overture and to the concert overture Le Carnaval romai which depicts its subject in brilliant colour through breathtakingly vibrant orchestration.
The comic opera Béatrice et Bénédict took its inspiration from Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. The overture draws on an intense solo scene for Béatrice and adds elements of the cheerful banter that make up the story of the title characters' playful courtship.
When Berlioz visited the Hungarian capital Pest in 1846, it was suggested to him that one way of winning the hearts of the audiences there would be to make an arrangement of the beloved Rákóczy March, which up until that point had been known only as a piano piece. Berlioz agreed, and on the very night before he left for Pest, he put together his own orchestral version of the piece. It was a resounding success when performed at his first concert, to the extent that Berlioz promptly included it in the large work on which he was working at the time: La Damnation de Faust.
Le Roi Lear, Le Corsaire, and Waverley have one thing in common: all are independent concert pieces that have been given the title overture as in many respects they do resemble opera overtures but none is in actual fact connected to an opera. The composer here took his inspiration from literary works. Le Roi Lear, for instance, is a remarkable tone portrait of Shakespeare's deranged king, full of energy and anger, while Le Corsaire may be loosely based on Byron's The Corsair. Berlioz based Waverley on a novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott, and the score bears a quotation in English: 'Dreams of love and Lady's charms, give place to honour and to arms.' The contrast expressed so well in this simple quotation is equally evident in the music itself. Here the 'dreams of love' unfold in a long cello melody, which is repeated with richer orchestrations, before leading into the vigorous musical depiction of 'honour and arms'.
Andrew Davis…(is) an excellent Berlioz conductor…on fine form here with the Bergen Philharmonic. --IRR, Feb'13
...a vivid, large scale recording that brings out Berlioz's detail really clearly, of which the Bergen Phiharmonic orchestra players make a great deal. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, Apr'13
these thrilling new performances by Sir Andrew Davis and the excellent Bergen Philharmonic tend to trump the earlier issue (Sir Colin Davis (RCA,1/99) ), not least for the superb SACD quality, which sounds almost equally spectacular on a non-SACD reproducer. Very highly recommended. --Gramophone, May'13
Top Customer Reviews
(On all points not so close to being a great one).
One must question the obsession "Bis" and "Chandos" are engaged with by recording this orchestra in it's home hall, the Grieg-hall, Bergen. It might just be that the orchestral and hall fee are 'symbolic' and that the financial support these labels get for recording this orchestra makes it worthwhile for them to fool-around and spend time and equipment-time doing the recordings there at the Grieg-hall and with this orchestra.
It has been long on my mind that the Bergen orchestra might not be a "super-star" that those Bis and Chandos labels are trying to impose on us (trying to "sell" us...)
What should have become a breath-taking pieces of music (in par with little Berlioz Fantastique-s, if you will...) has turned out to be here in this recording a mash of walls of sound clashing one on top the other without any order, clarity, focus, true impact, realism, without the sound-stage spread and clarity and without the promised super-resolution that SACD can encompass and present to the listener in multi-channel playback mode.Read more ›