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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

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)


Opera - Released November 24, 2017 | Warner Classics


Symphonies - Released March 4, 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.

Full Operas - Released April 1, 2011 | Challenge Classics

Distinctions 4F de Télérama

Classical - Released January 1, 1972 | Universal Music


Symphonic Music - Released September 19, 2011 | Sony Classical

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Classical - Released December 1, 1973 | Philips Classics


Classical - Released August 26, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice

Classical - Released December 3, 1985 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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.

Classical - Released January 1, 1993 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

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


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

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Classical - Released January 1, 1970 | Philips Classics


Classical - Released September 2, 2016 | Chandos


Classical - Released January 1, 1982 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Distinctions Diapason d'or

Symphonic Music - Released July 1, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or

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