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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique / Leonard Slatkin

Album Summary

>Berlioz, Hector : Le corsaire Overture, Op. 21
>Berlioz, Hector : Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Immensely influential, the remarkable Symphonie fantastique was composed while Hector Berlioz was suffering an intense and unreciprocated passion for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson. Its autobiographical tale describes a young musician's opium-poisoned nightmares of jealous despair and fatal justice following the murder of his beloved. Berlioz wrote a second movement cornet solo into a subsequent revision of the score, here included as an optional extra. He wed his sweetheart actress but, recuperating in Nice, wrote Le corsaire after the final breakup of their marriage. Internationally renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin began his tenure as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the 2008-2009 season. He was recently named Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, beginning with the 2011-2012 season. He completed his twelfth and final season as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in June 2008, and finished his three-year commitment as Music Advisor to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in June 2009. Slatkin continues as Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

BBC Music Magazine, October 2012
Slatkin may not be a celebrated or 'authentic' Berlioz interpreter, but his polished, traditional approach isn't negligible. His reading is somewhat monumental, but not cripplingly slow...and beautifully detailed...excellent playing and recording still gives this disc a respectable place in a crowded market.

Gramophone Magazine, October 2012
One of its admirable qualities is the lucidity of playing that responds well to the particular palette of sonorities that Berlioz envisaged...the performance has its merits in precision and in some dramatic explosions, but as a whole tends to run a somewhat literal course rather than being imaginatively brought to life.

American Record Guide, January/February 2013
The Big News here is that this recording has excellent sound - not showy, punchy, hi-fi store demo sound, but clean, balanced, warm sound that flatters the performance. As one can tell from the headnote, it's available in both a superb-sounding standard CD and, instead of an SACD, a Blu-ray disc with both 24-bit 96 kHz high-definition two-channel stereo and DTS 5.1 HD surround tracks (sorry, no video). A standard CD mastered from wellengineer source material laid down by folks who know really music can blow away a lot of the complaints some of us critics have about the limitations of CD sound, and that's the case here. The standard CD sounds better than some SACDs I've sampled. I like the antiphonal effect of the two harps placed at the far left and far right at the beginning of II. And when the allegro of the finale takes off, the big drum roll just keeps growing before it finally peaks. There's no shortage of dynamic range or low-frequency content in this recording.

MusicWeb International, January 2013
If this new Berlioz coupling is representative of what the orchestra will be delivering in the future then we can look forward to some fabulous releases...[Slatkin's] in control - of course he is - but he's just the catalyst and he serves the music admirably. This is a really affectionate, elegant version that utilises all the powers of a modern symphony orchestra in full flight...I struggle to think of a version that offers better playing. An absolute winner.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Auditorium de Lyon, France (08/31/2011/09/01/2011).


Bracing new reading deserves your attention
Berlioz' s "Symphonie Fantastique" is easily one of the classical repertoire's "war horses" Certainly, the bizarre and familiar programmatic "story line", centering around the composer's infatuation with actress Harriet Smithson, coupled with the work's colorful orchestration and, occasionally, bombastic tone make it one of those works that has been performed countless times and recorded nearly as often. When a new recording emerges, one hopes that it can at least compete with the numerous others out there, if not surpass. This new rendition by the Orchestre de Lyon with its new music director, Leonard Slatkin, can clearly compete and does surpass many of the other versions available. Slatkin's direction and pacing is clean, tight and appropriate; never rushed nor turgid. The strings in this orchestra are one of its strengths and one of Slatkin's strengths, going back to St. Louis, has always been the attention he pays to excellent string players and, therefore, the insistence on having some. His "March to the Scaffold" is dramatic in its building intensity and very satisfying. The valse, "Un bal", is delicate and beautifully paced. Speaking of which, one of the "extras" that Slatkin includes in this recording is an alternate version of the waltz that Berlioz and later discarded that includes a cornet solo in between the harp, strings and woodwinds. While the solo is pleasant and played well; it is quirky and - frankly - really intrusive compared to how we are accustomed to hearing this. The cornet timbre cuts right through everything and it seems just bizarre in this context. It does not surprise me that Berlioz decided not to use it. The other "extra" is the wonderful "Le corsaire" overture, after either Lord Byron or the French translation of James Fenimore Cooper's "The Red Rover"; whichever is still unclear. This is a very engaging and exciting concert overture that - similar to "Les francs-juges" - does not get performed nearly as often as it should. Here, too, the Orchestre de Lyon under Slatkin give a wonderful reading. I strongly recommend this disc to you for another solid addition to the Leonard Slatkin legacy as well as for having a very fine "Symphonie Fantastastique". The "Corsaire" and that quirky cornet solo are well worth having as well!
Submitted on 10/02/12 by Dan Coombs 
Among the top recordings of this Berlioz masterwork
Orchestre National de Lyon, under the direction of living legend Leonard Slatkin, is lyrical and clearly comfortable as they work magically through the Symphonie Fantastique. The hall (Auditorium de Lyon) is a bit muted and compressed, but the playing is excellent and the thunderous timpani will rattle any loose change in your car (where I do most of my listening).

This disc has the added bonus of an alternate version of the 2nd Movement which includes the Cornet obbligato Berlioz wrote in a later version of the symphony.

Highly recommended!
Submitted on 10/11/12 by DanL 
(Over?)-refined Berlioz
One sits up & pays attention to Leonard Slatkin in this new Naxos disc of the Symphonie Fantastique, his first recording from his new gig as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon. Orchestral colour has always been a key in the orchestras Slatkin has built over the years, and in his choice of music. But for all the melodrama in the program, Berlioz's piece has a very French formal logic, and Slatkin's purposeful forward thrust reminds us that we're listening to a symphony written just a few years after Beethoven's death. Slatkin's approach is a bit drier and ironic, more matter-of-fact, than the intense, almost lurid versions of Munch or Bernstein. In cinematic terms, Slatkin's version would be closer to Wes Anderson than Bazz Luhrmann. The differences are ones of taste, though I wonder if Slatkin has taken too much fun out of the work. I suspect Berlioz himself would have wanted a more full-blooded approach. Over-refined or not, there's no questioning the excellence of the musicians or the clarity of the recording.
Submitted on 11/27/12 by Dean Frey 
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Works Details

>Berlioz, Hector : Le corsaire Overture, Op. 21
  • Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
  • Ensemble: Orchestre National De Lyon
  • Notes: Auditorium de Lyon, France (08/31/2011/09/01/2011)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1846-1851

>Berlioz, Hector : Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
  • Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
  • Notes: Auditorium de Lyon, France (08/31/2011/09/01/2011)
  • Running Time: 48 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 04/1830