Saturday 14 March 2015

Remastered Classic Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique Classical CD Choice Review



"The 4.0 channel quadraphonic recording is quite miraculous in the way it captures the reverberant ambience of Symphony Hall, Boston while managing to retain instrumental clarity even when the incisiveness brass and percussion are playing at full tilt."

We are happy to present the review of recently remaster and re-released 'Berlioz-Symphonie Fantastique' original Deutsche Gramophon recording from the 70's  with conductor Seiji Ozawa and Boston Symphony Orchestra. The review is posted on Classical CD Choice UK by Graham Williams.

PENTATONE's remarkable re-masterings of quadraphonic tapes from the 1970s in their RQR series breathed new life into many recordings that over the subsequent decades have achieved classic status, so this latest issue – one of a series of releases from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue – is most welcome.

The performance of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique on this hybrid multi-channel SACD was taped at Boston Symphony Hall in February 1973 shortly after Seiji Ozawa had begun his tenure as Musical Director with the orchestra (one that lasted for a remarkable 29 years) and led to a number of outstanding recordings during this period.

The opening of 'Rêverie, Passions' is finely moulded and Ozawa brings terrific urgency and excitement to the central section of this movement (marked Allegro agitato ed appassionato assai).
After a beautifully poised waltz ('Un bal'), the slow movement, which in some hands can drag, is light and flowing thanks to the marvellously expressive string playing; though some may baulk at Ozawa's tendency to accelerate as the work progresses. The 'Marche au supplice' is very fast and almost jaunty whilst the final 'Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat' is a thrilling white-knuckle ride thanks to the crispness of attack and virtuoso playing of the orchestra. 

There is, however, one important caveat; Ozawa omits the exposition repeat in the work's opening movement as well as that in the 'Marche au Supplice' (something that was more common in performances of the work in those days than it is today). This shortens what is already a fleet performance of the work to 47'14” seconds which is short measure for a full price issue. Though Ozawa's recording in no way supplants that by Sir Colin Davis and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (also on the PENTATONE label Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Davis), it is nevertheless well worth hearing and can be recommended for both the elegance and suppleness of Ozawa's performance and especially the magnificent playing of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a body often deservedly described as 'The Aristocrat of Orchestras'.

The 4.0 channel quadraphonic recording is quite miraculous in the way it captures the reverberant ambience of Symphony Hall, Boston while managing to retain instrumental clarity even when the incisiveness brass and percussion are playing at full tilt.

 

Graham Williams