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Classical - Released September 4, 2012 | Naxos

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In a year that has already seen two extraordinary recordings of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Leonard Slatkin's 2012 release on Naxos faces serious competition indeed. One might think that Robin Ticciati's excellent near-period style rendition with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra or Jean-Philippe Tremblay's authentic instruments version with the Orchestre de la Francophonie would simply crowd out any other contenders, notwithstanding the myriad reissues that appear each year. Yet Slatkin's reading with the Orchestra National de Lyon is a respectable mainstream recording that hearkens back to the no-frills style of Colin Davis. Fans of Davis' 1974 recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra will recognize a similar approach in Slatkin's presentation, which is particularly close in the tempos, pacing, and homogenizing of the orchestra, which plays modern instruments. Whereas Ticciati and Tremblay seek the raw and startling sonorities of an early 19th century orchestra, Slatkin makes no attempt to re-create the style of the period, but works within the modern tradition of playing this work. This is a solid performance that is as conventional as Davis' recording was, and just as secure in interpretation and execution. Whether or not this performance offers enough impact to compete with the more historically informed recordings, it is a reliable Symphonie fantastique that holds its own. Collectors might want to snap up this CD for the bonus track, an alternate version of "Un bal," which features the seldom-played cornet obbigato. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Symphonies - Released October 25, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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The large collection of antique instruments at Les Siècles' command makes its recordings more than just speculative period exercises, but something approaching musical time travel. Led since 2003 by its founder, François-Xavier Roth, this singular French orchestra has given thrilling historically-informed recreations of the repertoire of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries on vintage instruments that were available to the musicians of the time, crafted by hand, and possessing the unique sonorities and tunings of different regions. For this 2019 album from Harmonia Mundi, Roth and his musicians play Hector Berlioz's hallucinatory Symphonie fantastique and the dramatic overture Les Francs-Juges with marvelous orchestral colors and a striking textural clarity that almost makes their distinctive characteristics seem especially highlighted. However, this recording isn't meant to be a sonic showcase for audiophiles, because the drama, musicality, and visceral excitement of the performances soon override the novelty of instrumentation, and the overall effect of the presentation is a startling reassessment and a refreshing change from the weightier Berlioz of a Thomas Beecham or a Colin Davis. No one could write for brass more blazingly than Berlioz, and his skillful handling of the woodwinds is even more apparent when heard with early Romantic timbres. The ultimate pleasure of this disc, though, is found in the cohesion, agility, and passion of the group's playing, and Roth's confident leadership comes through in his precision and alert attention to details. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released November 1, 2019 | Alpha

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Composed in 1824 by Hector Berlioz at the age of twenty-one and premiered at the church of Saint-Roch in Paris in 1825, the Messe solennelle has come down to us following an eventful history. After Berlioz declared that he had destroyed the score, the mass was considered lost until it was rediscovered in Antwerp in 1992. This remarkable work helps us both to appreciate the development of Berlioz’s style – already revolutionary in his early years – and to understand what he owed to his contemporaries, notably Cherubini, whose monumental Requiem Hervé Niquet has already recorded (Alpha 251). Scored for three soloists (soprano, tenor and bass), chorus and orchestra, the work consists of thirteen movements, material from which Berlioz was to reuse in several later works, notably in the ‘Scène aux champs’ of the Symphonie fantastique, which quotes the ‘Gratias’. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death, Hervé Niquet, fascinated by this work – ‘There’s nothing he doesn’t know about dramaturgy and vocal style. At the age of twenty!’ – decided to programme it (the concert at the famous Berlioz Festival of La Côte Saint-André was a memorable occasion) and record it in the Chapelle Royale of the Château de Versailles. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released September 20, 2019 | Warner Classics

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Though the celebrations in France were rather patchy in terms of official concerts, apart from the Festival Berlioz de La Côte-Saint-André, the anniversary of 150 years since the death of Hector Berlioz was marked with great pomp in London, where fervent Berliozian John Nelson, conducted the Requiem on the very day of the event, 8 March 2019, in the gigantic St Paul's Cathedral, at the heart of the "City" of the UK capital.With three hundred musicians and chorists, this was one of the high points of the Berlioz calendar and a real London 'happening'. To save French honour, a colossal concert was recorded and filmed by a team who came from Paris, under the artistic direction of Daniel Zalay. One can imagine the difficulty involved in recording such a sprawling team, spread out throughout the vast edifice that was built after the great fire of 1666. Miraculously spared by the German bombs of 1940, it has a powerful symbolism for Londoners.The English love for Berlioz reflects the love that the composer felt for Shakespeare, which can be seen throughout his works. "There is no city in the world, I am convinced" – he wrote – "where so much music is consumed as in London". He regularly read the London press and closely followed the reactions to performances of his works. This 2019 anniversary concert was inundated by Londoners and the venue was sold out well before the day of the performance itself. John Nelson commands his gigantic team with a masterly hand, in perfect time, and with a perfect familiarity with a composer that he loves above all others, as once did Sir Colin Davis. The Philharmonia Orchestra responds to his slightest indication. The tenor's brief part is magnified by the voice of Michael Spyres, who projects across the assembly from the pulpit. An immense musical and commemorative event, the memory of which will long be kept alive by this album. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 29, 2020 | MUNCHNER PHILHARMONIKER GBR

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Classical - Released June 29, 2010 | PentaTone

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Even though Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is one of the most familiar classical works, performances are often surprising for the variety of sonorities that can still be found in it and for the exciting ways it can be interpreted. Berlioz was the Romantic showman par excellence, and he made this piece a showcase for what the modern orchestra could do, from conventional playing to special innovative effects. These include the famous timpani chords at the end of the "Scène aux champs," the grotesque brass pedal tones in the "Marche au supplice," and the eerie use of col legno battuto in the "Songe d'une nuit de sabbat," among many others. Of course, the novel aspects of Berlioz's orchestration come off best in live performance, but the next best thing is this hybrid super-audio CD from PentaTone that captures Symphonie fantastique in all its hallucinatory strangeness and vividness. Marek Janowski and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra present the symphony and the King Lear Overture with exquisite polish, and the marvelous audio production practically gets inside the ensemble and allows each part to have its distinctive -- and sometimes disturbing -- place in the mix. Beyond the fabulous sound, this is also an incredibly gripping interpretation because Janowski conveys all the passion and impulsiveness of the drug-addled artist in the work's program. Indeed, the music is as hot-headed and deranged as the composer intended, and listeners will feel compelled to listen to the whole SACD in one sitting, so riveting is this live performance for its high energy and seemingly endless array of skillfully crafted sounds. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 1, 2014 | Naxos

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Not quite a viola concerto and not just a symphony with an obbligato viola part, Hector Berlioz's Harold en Italie -- based on Lord Byron's poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and events from the composer's own sojourn in Italy for the Prix de Rome -- is a fascinating hybrid that embraces both forms and even anticipates the Lisztian tone poem. This performance by violist Lise Berthaud and the Orchestre National de Lyon, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, shows that they are fully conscious of the work's peculiar nature, so a degree of flexibility is observed, noticeably in the varied treatment of the viola. At times playing as a prominent soloist, at others merely providing filigree for color, Berthaud handles both sides of her part with grace and makes her presence felt, even when the viola's dynamics are extremely soft. Slatkin leads the orchestra with energy and humor, making sure that the picturesque aspects of the piece are vividly conveyed. For filler, two of Berlioz's most vibrant overtures are included, Roman Carnival and Benvenuto Cellini, along with the Rêverie et caprice for violin and orchestra, featuring Giovanni Radivo as soloist. This program is sure to please Berlioz aficionados, and fans of Berthaud should definitely take note of her appearance here. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1959 | Warner Classics

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Opera - Released November 22, 2019 | Warner Classics

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After his spectacular recording of Berlioz’s magnum opus, the opera Les Troyens, which was awarded internationally, the Berlioz enthusiast John Nelson has delivered a new version of La Damnation de Faust which also appears to be on track for dizzying success. For this recording made in concert by Daniel Zalay and his team of sound engineers in the Erasme Auditorium of the Palais de la musique et des congrès de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Convention Centre) on the 25th and 26th of April 2019, John Nelson reunited with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, whose typically French style and German discipline he likes so much. The army of instrumentalists would have pleased Berlioz, with its eight double basses and six harps among others. John Nelson knows his way round this music like no one else, he knows to inject it with a particular energy all while respecting the musical colour so well defined by the composer. He is surrounded by the cast of dreams, with Faust masterfully portrayed by the tenor Michael Spyres who sings the French perfectly and knows how to embody the character by playing on the quality of his tonality. Joyce DiDonato is an opulent Marguerite, full of fire and totally engaged. Nicolas Courjal plays a very expressive Mephisto; his sombre tone underlines the darkness and bitter irony of the character he plays. The children’s choir Les Petits Chanteurs de Strasbourg and the powerful Gulbenkian Choir perfectly round off this ideal casting. A new milestone in the recording of Berlioz’s main works under John Nelson’s direction for the label Erato, this accomplished record precedes Roméo et Juliette which the same artists will undertake in 2020. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Symphonic Music - Released January 18, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica
A new aesthetic calls for new forms: such is the challenge the composer set for himself in the two works presented here. In Les Nuits d’été, Berlioz pioneered, well before Mahler and Ravel, a song cycle for voice and orchestra. In Harold in Italy, scored for large orchestra and solo viola, he experimented with the symphonic genre. These period-instrument performances by Les Siècles, led by François-Xavier Roth, with violist Tabea Zimmermann, also feature Stéphane Degout in the vocal cycle, heard here in the composer’s own version for baritone. File under: out of the ordinary. © harmonia mundi
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Symphonic Music - Released February 12, 2001 | LSO Live

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Classical - Released March 9, 2018 | Sony Classical

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Symphonic Music - Released January 28, 2010 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

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Classical - Released September 2, 2011 | Signum Records

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Classical - Released April 12, 2019 | Naxos

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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An international sensation and instant star in Deutsche Grammophon's stable while only in his twenties, Gustavo Dudamel won kudos worldwide for his extraordinary musicality, wide expressive range, astute technical mastery, and acute perception of what works in a score, and he has brought great vitality and excitement to his performances of the Romantic symphonic repertoire. His 2007 release of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 with the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela brought critical praise, and his live follow-up with Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique with the Los Angeles Philharmonic is sure to do the same. What both recordings reveal is Dudamel's amazing ability to reshape whole passages of overly familiar music into fluid and seemingly spontaneous renderings that sound almost like re-creations and make listeners really think about what they're hearing. You may not always agree with Dudamel's choices, and his handling of the music may at times seem a bit too calculated, but once you are caught up in a performance, you are compelled to pay attention to everything this conductor does. Since the Symphonie fantastique is one of the most famous warhorses ever, it is always up to conductors to make something new of it, though few think it through as clearly or manage it as creatively as Dudamel, who makes the scenes of this programmatic symphony really feel like vignettes in an especially vivid film. He also finds ways to make sense of Berlioz's quirky rhythms, disjointed figurations, disorienting counterpoint, and sudden "scene changes," so that even the first-time listener can follow the piece's trajectory and make the necessary musical connections to the hallucinatory narrative. But beyond the specific touches that make this performance extraordinary, one has to appreciate Dudamel's artistic audacity and brilliance with the orchestra, which is completely inspired and utterly willing to play its collective heart out in this electrifying performance. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is spectacular from start to finish, and the enthusiastic ovation at the end of this recording is totally warranted. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 4, 2016 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released February 6, 2013 | Warner Classics International

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Symphonic Music - Released February 5, 2013 | Chandos

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For brilliant tone colors, innovative instrumental combinations, and startling effects, the music of Hector Berlioz has seldom been surpassed, and students of this arch-Romantic composer know that this is where the art of modern orchestration begins. The seven overtures on this 2013 Chandos disc epitomize Berlioz's fiery imagination and technical skill with each instrument and section of the orchestra, and the originality of Le Corsaire, Béatrice et Bénédict, Les Francs-juges, Le Carnaval romain, Waverley, Le roi Lear, and Benvenuto Cellini have kept them alive and vital in the concert repertoire to the present day. In fact, if this fine SACD by Andrew Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra is a measure of excellence, they have never sounded better. This CD truly is a showcase of virtuosic orchestral writing and playing, and every track dazzles with electricity and drama. Newcomers to Berlioz would do well to make this their introductory album, because the surprising qualities that are found in his larger orchestral and operatic masterpieces are on display in these digestible pieces. Chandos provides extraordinary reproduction that captures every note, and audiophiles will relish the vibrant sonorities. Highly recommended. © TiVo