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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
8
4.1 out of 5 stars
Berlioz - Harold in Italy (Harold en Italie) LSO
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 3 March 2012
I bought this album for my Dad. Its a piece of music he has loved all his life. When I was a child he made up words to the march of the pilgrims and just a few weeks ago we remembered and sang them together which is what inspired me to get him the CD ( he had a vinyl but no longer has a record player )Now in his 87th year he can turn up the volume, lie on the floor and conduct this beautiful music once again.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 October 2009
Davis and the LSO are great, but Zimmerman is somewhat "fluffy" with the playing. Perhaps it's because it is a live performance, but I'm afraid in some sections the viola just doesn't gel with the orchestra. The 2nd movement "ponticello" playing, is somewhat irritating, and OK a couple of bars for effect, but not for the length the effect is used - it is a bit like someone sliding a fork on a dry shiny plate - irritating. The 1st and 3rd movements are good, despite the heavy bowing by the soloist, and I question the quality of the solo in the 4th movement - fluffy and meek. The tracks 5 to 8 fillers are enjoyable.
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on 25 May 2013
A poetic journey through Italy on the lyricism of the viola. You can almost see the lakes and mountains, the dances in the piazze. Overall the performance is, although not exceptional at all levels at the 5 star level, it is so for the total overall effect it creates of creating musical illusions of a journey through the moods and locations of Italy following Byron's poem "Harold in Italy".
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VINE VOICEon 19 December 2007
It was the great showman-virtuoso Nicolo Paganini who commissioned Berlioz to write a viola concerto in order to show off the qualities of his latest acquisition - a Strad, of course. Paganini, so the story goes, had been so impressed by literature-loving Berlioz on hearing his Symphonie Fantastique that he approached him there and then and suggested the commission. But despite Harold in Italy being a viola concerto in all but name, Paganini expressed disappointment over the first movement. Doubtless, it was too subtle and idiosyncratic a work for his flamboyant, extrovert style. Like Hamlet, the viola is a protagonist, but not one that's constantly in the limelight.

At times, Tabea Zimmermann has elements of Paganini about her playing. Without any histrionics, she manages to produce a wide range of timbres - notably, a raw, icy sound in the second movement (Marche des pelerins) created by bowing on the bridge. At other points, she shows a subtlety and sensitivity to those around her that are well suited to a piece that is more a dramatic dialogue than a vehicle for pyrotechnical display. This work is, of course, one of the giants of the viola repertoire, and Zimmermann one of the giants of contemporary viola players. Luckily, the fact that it is a 'live' recording doesn't mean that there are coughs and splutters to add authenticity and annoyance. In fact, there's no trace of an audience anywhere, and one asks what the benefits of such such live recordings might be in the first place, other than allowing us to gauge the real, as opposed to engineered, quality of the performers.

And another question. Why does Zimmermann play with such lavish vibrato? Admittedly, Harold in Italy is a Romantic piece, but then - as I understand it - vibrato was still used only sparingly during this period (the 1830s) and, as a decorative adornment rather than a constant feature, it was used in much the same way as, for example, a grace note might have been.

And what of the pieces that end this CD, the Ballet Music from Les Troyens? They are quite obviously placed here as fillers in what would otherwise be a mere 40' or so - almost unheard of these days. Although the four tracks seem rather inconsequential after so fine a main work as Harold, they provide further evidence of the remarkable individuality and expessive range of a composer who, following the example of Beethoven, continued to extended musical boudaries.
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on 25 May 2015
Good
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 August 2014
A couple of reviewers on American amazon.com whom I respect really like this disc -- John Kwok and Santa Fe Listener -- but I find myself agreeing with the one-star reviewer that the sound is a serious let-down. There's no doubt about Davis's pacing and feel for the textures of this wonderful music, but the balances from the engineers seem to oddly highlight sections of the orchestra in ways that strike me as artificial-sounding, and the violist, Tabea Zimmerman -- is miked a tad too closely throughout. And to make things worse, the sound, for all its presence lacks warmth -- the strings and the lower brass sound charmless in timbre; the woodwinds get a better deal. Zimmerman has warmth and phrases beautifully, but there is that closeness that bothers me. I have read reviews of Davis's Live LSO Barbican recordings, and those who don't like them complain, as I am doing here, about the sound. How it all sounded on the night, I don't know, but the engineers, to my ears, clearly have problems with this space.

So what to do? Davis's Philips recording with Nobuko Imai (recorded 30 years before this one) is much better balanced, and the timbres are sweeter. Imai is in a better relation to the orchestra too, and if the overall effect isn't quite so "present" it is nonetheless very satisfactory. Or, if you insist on digital recording and a live performance (as this one is), there's Maazel and the Berlin Philharmonic, with Wolfram Christ from 1985 -- more warmth and better balance there too, and fine playing by the soloist. These are all the "Harolds" I've heard, but Santa Fe Listener's comments make me want to try Primrose, and my recent listening to John Eliot Gardiner's account of "Symphonie Fantastique" makes me want to hear his "Harold" too. This is a piece of music I really like, and Colin Davis's Mozart and Berlioz and Sibelius recordings (on RCA and Philips) I really like too. But he and Zimmerman don't get a fair shake here, I'm afraid.
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on 15 March 2013
The lovely viola playing brings me back again and again to this recording. A great performance. It says "Live" but there is no suggestion of audience noise, so the engineers have got that problem licked. So then I took Tennyson off the shelf and read his Childe Harold. Interesting, especially Canto 2.
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on 21 January 2012
Having heard this piece at a live concert, I wanted to hear it again and now throughly enjoy putting it on- quite often. It was a piece I had never heard of before so was delighted to find it at Amazon.

I particularly like the first track.
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