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Customer Review

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There can be only one"...........Connor MacLeod, 14 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (DECCA The Originals) (Audio CD)
As ridiculous as MacLeod's assertion may be, it speaks volumes about what this recording has always meant to me. Of the dozens of recordings I have of the major 'war-horses' per se (Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler symphonies, Rachmaninov concerti, Baroque sewing machine music), this is the ONLY one I'll ever want.

Recorded in 1974, the most readily apparent characteristic of this reading is its momentum. Davis doesn't allow the orchestra to rest for a moment, creating tension whenever and where ever necessary. So many performances of 'Fantastique' lack the simple inertia to keep this score alive and the Dutch respond to Davis magically. The first movement, difficult to convey because of the orchestration parrying between sparse and complex, is performed with such ease and color; I simply have not heard a better first movement anywhere.

The second movement waltz, 'At the Ball', is absolutely gorgeous, especially with the added cornet. Anytime I hear this waltz without the cornet part, I'm ready to call the guilty conductor and ask him why he left it out. It simply cannot go without. Again the Concertgebouw performs this movement with such life and joy it dances off the disc!

The third movement is simply amazing. The english horn solo at the beginning and end (the shepherd's pipe) of the movement is forlorn, impassioned, lonely, it is what typifies a benchmark reading for this piece. The Berlioz bass drum at the end is perfect for the coming storm. In general, the Concertgebouw bass drum for this recording is right on. The depth, the bass, the power, it's perfect and perfectly played.
One of the better moments of the CD, the March to the Scaffold, is strictly paced here but the orchestra accentuates throughout and conveys a truly sinister scene. Listen to the bassoons and how they pierce the Concertgebouw acoustic like no other. Marvelous!

The last movement is the best Witch's Sabbath I know; the creepy beginning leading up to the ensuing Dies Irae is only just the beginning. The bells used in this recording I have yet to hear anywhere since and never on any disc before. They set the stage for some of the most frenzied and expertly played Berlioz in recorded history (I'm dead serious about this). The low brass Dies Irae is striking and never lets up. The prickly dance that interrupts the Dies shows us a level of execution the woodwinds of very few orchestras ever demonstrated. The sextuplets that lead up to the main fugue are incredible and their reaffirmation at the ending really make a statement about the greatness of this offering.

This recording is unparalleled. Because I love this music so much and Davis found the perfect orchestra for this recording session, I have not yet found a reason to buy another. It IS a benchmark for this work; it is an incontestable addition to anyone's music library.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Jul 2011 20:39:03 BDT
Dear Mr. Mikolay,

Of the 11 versions of Monteux (Symphonie Fantastique), what is your favorite?
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Location: Pittsburgh, PA

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