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on 24 May 2015
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on 4 December 2002
I was privileged to be in the audience when this performance was recorded, and was blown away by Davis' interpretation and the extraordinary commitment of a world class orchestra on top form. I ordered this CD with some trepidation, because I wondered whether a recording would be able to capture the atmosphere of the live performance, but I am not disappointed.
This recording is issued under the LSO's own label, which is why it's inexpensive. But be assured that you won't find a better performance at any price.
7 people found this helpful
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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.

The Symphony itself is from a two track recording while the Romeo recording is from a three track original. This means that the Romeo scene can be heard through the front three speakers in surround mode. The Symphony will be heard via the front left and right speakers in surround mode. There is no doubt about the superiority of the surround mode for both works over traditional CD playback where that facility is available. This can easily be tested by playing the two track symphony via the stereo only version and the two track surround version. The latter has far more depth, space and sense of reality.

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 and there is no doubting the excitement generated in this way, particularly with the final witches' Sabbath movement.

However, some listeners may feel that this approach may be questioned with 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. This will be a matter of personal preference.

The Romeo excerpt is well done with no provisos and the further advantage of a three track recording and the later date is a further advantage. This is not to undermine the very real merits of the symphony recording which is truly remarkable for 1954.

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.
5 people found this helpful
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on 20 November 2017
Most if not all the reviews shown below, relate to recordings by Charles Munch.

But the disc under consideration is of performances conducted by Eduard van Beinum, and it is superb.

IGNORE the misleading reviews, and buy the Decca Eloquence disc.
2 people found this helpful
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on 3 May 2014
Wonderful - my favourite piece of music. As a classical music lover it is good to know of an outlet whereby I can get great music thanks
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on 1 April 2018
I'd prefer it if Amazon would post reviews that actually refer to the disc they are selling.
This is Berlioz played by Montreal Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Charles Dutoit.
What it is definitely not is conducted by Munch or Davis.
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on 11 February 2013
One of Colin Davis's favorite Berlioz pieces which he has recorded several times, but none is better than this one. The LSO at its best.
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on 10 May 2015
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on 8 May 2016
Great sacd good service.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 8 July 2014
This is a famous recording. Munch takes all sorts of liberties with tempi, yet no-one - Bernstein included - has managed to give this extraordinary musical unity without sacrificing excitement. Given that it represents one of the most frenetic, febrile expressions of hallucinogenic, drug-induced hyper-sensitivity that the Romantic Movement affords, it would seem prosaic in the extreme to demur at Munch's agogic freedom, especially when he conjures such ravishing sounds from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He gives this pulsating music an entirely absorbing sense of purpose, yet nothing seems calculated; even the most extreme rubato or accelerando serves the underlying architectural conception.

The vividness of the sound also reveals that of accelerating vehicles in the background and every creak of the floor. While the 1954 version made with the same forces on stereo reel-to-reel tape is in some ways even more daring and propulsive, on balance this 1962 stereo re-make is marginally preferable both in terms of sound and interpretation, although I would not go to the stake defending either against the other.

The opening of the first movement is weighty, soulful and impassioned before launching into the yearning, headlong passion over Berlioz's own "Immortal Beloved". Here, more than anywhere else, Munch plays fast and loose with the beat but it works. In the second movement, "Un bal", the waltz time is a little more measured than in the 1954 recording but if anything even more charged with erotic intensity. The "Scène au champs" avoids the longueurs which lesser conductors engender, and the exquisite tuning of the Boston strings makes magic as that glorious bucolic theme, so reminiscent of Beethoven's "Pastoral", blooms expansively. In contrast to the freedom he employs elsewhere, Munch at first holds the "Marche au supplice" to a very steady beat, before gradually ratcheting up the tempo and tension and building ominously to a superb decapitation. The "Songe d'une nuit de sabbat" again pulses steadily and inexorably before the chimes usher in the weird, pounding tread of the Dies Irae and the syncopated frenzy of the demonic dance. This is one of the great Berlioz recordings, beyond doubt.
2 people found this helpful
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