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Full Operas - Released November 24, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 4 étoiles de Classica
We will gladly forgive the occasional "weakness" in sound technology in this recording of Troyens by Berlioz (recorded live in concert in April 2017). In light of the first-rate quality of the music and vocals that appear on the disc (a majority of which are French voices, with Stéphane Degout at their head) this immense work is from the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the three choirs which have been brought together – because the work demands immense swelling choirs – which are the choir of the Opéra national du Rhin, the Opéra National de Bade, and the Strasbourg Philharmonic's own choir. This recording rests, of course, on the complete original edition, which gives the listener a chance to hear Les Troyens as the work was performed in 1863, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, in which some intense chopping saw Acts I and II condensed into one part and Acts III to V into another, producing two distinct operas (La Prise de Troie and Les Troyens à Carthage). We also get a taste, naturally, of Berlioz's immensely rich orchestral innovations: with every new work, he would invent some exciting new prototype from scratch, never content to rest on his laurels. The listener should note the presence of six saxhorns, recently invented by Adolphe Sax (of whom Berlioz was an indefatigable champion, even if he didn't often use his instruments in his scores, no doubt because of the poor quality of the early instrumentalists who learned - however well or badly - Sax's instruments); bass clarinet, and an army of percussion pieces including several instruments which must have been rare in those days: crotales, goblet drums, tom-toms, thunder sheets... clearly, this is a milestone in the Berlioz discography. © SM/Qobuz

Symphonic Music - Released November 30, 2018 | San Francisco Symphony

Hi-Res Booklet
Berlioz's preface for his dramatic symphony Romeo and Juliet reads as follows: "Although voices are frequently used in it, it is neither a concert opera, nor a cantata, but a choral symphony. The reason there is singing almost from the start is to prepare the listener’s mind for the dramatic scenes where the feelings and passions are to be expressed by the orchestra. This latter scene depicts the reconciliation of the two families and is the only one to belong to the genre of opera or oratorio. If, in the celebrated scenes in the garden and in the cemetery, the dialogue of the two lovers, Juliet’s asides and the impassioned pleas of Romeo are not sung, if in short the love duet and the duet of despair are entrusted to the orchestra, the reasons for this are numerous and easy to grasp. First, and this would by itself be a sufficient justification for the author, the work is a symphony and not an opera. Then, since duets of this kind have been treated countless times in vocal form by the greatest masters, it was wise as well as interesting to try another mode of expression. It is also because the very sublimity of this love made its depiction so dangerous for the composer that he needed to allow his imagination a freedom which the literal meaning of the words sung would have denied him. Hence the resort to instrumental language, a language which is richer, more varied, less finite, and through its very imprecision incomparably more powerful in such a situation." This new recording by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra brings together American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and tenor Nicholas Phan, as well as Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Some people may disagree with the absence of French voices; it is true that the pronunciation of the soloists is a little wobbly at times, but let’s not forget that this is Berlioz: the overwhelming majority of the score is symphonic, and that is where the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra truly shines through. © SM/Qobuz

Opera - Released November 24, 2017 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released November 28, 2005 | Parlophone UK

Sometimes it's hard to understand why a work as entertaining as Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini isn't more popular. It's brilliantly orchestrated, fun, filled with good tunes and vivid, if stock, characters. But it's too-challenging-by-half for comedy, and too-light-by-half for grand opera, occupying a gray area between the two genres in which only a few works (like Wagner's Die Meistersinger and Verdi's Falstaff) have had much success. Benvenuto Cellini is loosely based on the life of one of the sixteenth century's most notorious figures. A celebrated artisan and sculptor, a writer, and an occasional murderous thug, Cellini led the ultimate scoundrel's life, producing jewelry and works of art that were coveted by royalty one minute, and skipping town on the heels of his own bad behavior the next. The casting of his best-known statue, that of Perseus holding the head of Medusa, provides the loose framework for the plot, which combines the raucous atmosphere of Carnival, a rivalry between Cellini and the rival sculptor Fieramosca, a romance between Cellini and the daughter of a local official, and the looming authority of the Pope into one of opera's more colorful stories. None of it is terribly original, but Berlioz's music for the piece is some of his best. Like most operas of the period, Cellini underwent several revisions. The version recorded here is an attempt to reconstruct the score heard at the original Paris premiere. The most notable, distinguishing feature is the overture -- a longer, and arguably better, version than is normally heard on recordings. Conductor John Nelson's reading of the score is well balanced between comedic lightness and lyric substance, attentive to orchestral detail, and deceptively clear for a score of such rhythmic subtlety and complexity. It manages to be both breezy and filling at the same time. The opening scene, in which the love-struck Teresa (our heroine), her curmudgeonly watchful father Balducci (the well-meaning heavy), and the mirthful Cellini and his serenading friends from the street below, are woven seamlessly into one musical fabric sets the ambitious tone for the entire work, and that tone rarely flags over the course of three discs. Colin Davis' earlier studio recording is of comparable quality, but the freshness and excellent sound quality of this version make it an easy recommendation.

Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio

Classical - Released January 1, 1998 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)


Classical - Released December 1, 1973 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Classical - Released January 1, 1970 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Opera - Released November 30, 2018 | LSO Live

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama

Symphonies - Released March 3, 1998 | RCA Red Seal

Distinctions Choc du Monde de la Musique - 10 de Répertoire - 4F de Télérama
To judge any performance of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, one must look beyond the portrayal of its sensational program to see how well it coheres as a symphony. Berlioz may have been the maddest of the Romantics, but he was quite sane in planning his work's design, and this daring score is still dependent on form to effectively tell its tale. Michael Tilson Thomas, a skillful conductor of Romantic symphonies, understands that the Symphonie fantastique is more than an episodic tone poem, and he lays out its five movements with steadiness and a clear sense of trajectory. Reveries-Passions, A Ball, and the Scene in the Fields are properly treated as symphonic movements in the Sonata-Allegro, Scherzo, and Adagio scheme established by Beethoven. Taken together because they are connected in the narrative, the last two movements may be seen as an innovation on Beethoven's compound Finale in his Symphony No. 9. In Tilson Thomas' carefully paced and calculated reading, the "March to the Scaffold" and the "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath" are truly shocking and blasphemous, and all the pent-up fury of the San Francisco Symphony is unleashed in these blood-curdling hallucinations. Recorded in 1997-1998, this 2004 reissue also offers excerpts from Berlioz's Lélio. RCA's recording is wonderfully vivid and resonant.

Classical - Released January 1, 1972 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 5, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
With this surround-sound recording of Berlioz’s Requiem, Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra tackle the infinite and the immeasurable. All the grandiose, striking beauty of the Requiem’s large-scale ceremonial is encapsulated by first-class vocal and orchestral forces, fully utilising the spatial possibilities of Grieghallen in Bergen. The matching of space and sonority was one of Berlioz’s lasting obsessions, one experience in St Paul’s Cathedral in London throwing Berlioz into a delirium of emotion from which he took days to recover. His Grande Messe des morts, notorious for its requirement of four brass bands in addition to a large orchestra and chorus, taken here from live concerts, has often been seen as one of the most emotionally powerful works of its kind. Setting a solemn and austere, even ascetic text, the music is not that of an orthodox believer but of a visionary, inspired by the dramatic implications of death and judgement. © Chandos

Classical - Released December 3, 1985 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Among Colin Davis' great Berlioz albums, his 1969 recording in Westminster Cathedral of the Requiem, Op. 5, with the London Symphony and Chorus, must be considered one of the most powerful in its physical impact, compelling in its wide range of expressions, and moving in its spiritual austerity; in short, as satisfying a version as Berlioz ever could have wished for this imposing masterpiece. Of course, the spectacular high points of this Grand Messe des Morts are sure to draw the most attention, and few listeners will be disappointed by the cataclysmic sonorities in the Tuba Mirum (performed with four brass ensembles and eight sets of timpani, augmenting the expanded orchestra and choir) and in the only slightly less apocalyptic Rex Tremendae and Lacrymosa. But it's in the quiet, penitential moments where the Requiem is most spellbinding and affecting, and Davis draws subtle and highly expressive lines of counterpoint in the choral parts, in many places a cappella or with the barest of orchestral accompaniments. This 2007 reissue in The Originals series is rounded out with another Berlioz performance from 1969, the rousing performance at Wembley Town Hall of the Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15. In its somber mood, Classical textures, and martial pacing, this grandiose work is atypical of the emotionally volatile and flamboyant Berlioz; this commemorative symphony most closely resembles French band music in its thick scoring for brass, woodwinds, percussion, and chorus. While it is perfectly acceptable filler for this double-disc reissue, the Symphonie may seem relentlessly bombastic to some listeners and quite vulgar in comparison with the profound feeling of the Requiem; as a consequence, it should be heard separately to be properly appreciated.

Opera - Released July 9, 2001 | LSO Live


Classical - Released August 15, 2007 | harmonia mundi


Classical - Released January 1, 2002 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Classical - Released August 26, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice

Classical - Released February 14, 1994 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Choral Music (Choirs) - Released October 1, 1997 | Warner Classics International