A top-knotch Fantatasique with vastly improved sound
Yi-Peng | Singapore | 05/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As one of today's noted Berlioz scholars, Sir Colin Davis proves his worth with this wonderful classic performance of the Symphonie fantastique. Recorded with the Concertgebouw in 1974, it still shines among the many dozens of recordings available. The Dutch musicians produce first-class and peerless playing, with every subtle nuance brought out to the fore, and the Philips engineers respond positively within the condusive acoustics with wide-ranging, clear and atmospheric sound. And in this latest reissue, as if this was not enough, you get the extra asset of a clean and vivid new 24-bit remastering that also serves (with the removal of all extraneous tape hiss) to make this recording feel as if it was recorded only yesterday.Davis starts his performance with a dream-like Reveries section, before he is able to lurch into the forward-moving Passions section. Here, he allows the music to move forward and show the hysteria of the artist in relation to his imaginary beloved, at the same time giving the idee fixe a life of its own to show off its irregular phrasing and original qualities naturally. The Ball sequence that follows this movement has a refined lyricism, and is presented in the manner of authentic Strauss waltzes, but the flickers of the troubled soul are able to pervade through the light-hearted carnival-like festivities of this movement. After the troubles of the first two movements, Davis slows down the pace with a shapely and beautiful Scene in the country. In this movement, there is an extra touch of vividness with the two oboe soloists and the thunderous sound of the timpani being brought to the fore. Still, the quiet pastoral serenity and the dark undertones are nicely allowed to remain prominent, with the dark undertones hinting us of what is to come in the opium-inflicted nightmare that is to follow in the two movements. And indeed, as we expect, the last two movements turn out to be even more macabre than we expect them to. We sink with the artist into his nightmare, where we are faced with a menacing March to the Scaffold and a Dream of a Sabbath Night with eerie, menacing harmonics, replete with Dies irae. Still, the excitement is never allowed to ebb away, for Davis holds the macabre proceedings together with the necessary skill of a Berlioz conductor, keeping every listener on the edge of his seat up to the closing pages, when the combination of the Dies irae with the witches' roundelay build up to a devastating climax in stampeding towards Satan and Hell.To sum up, I can safely say that this is one of the most perfect recordings of the Symphonie fantastique available today, and can be recommended without any reservation to any lover of a good symphony or to a Berlioz neophyte, where this recording will be sure to find a happy home in his collection."
G.D. | Norway | 05/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Colin Davis has recorded the Symphonie fantastique on several occasions, but this 1974 version is probably the best. Now, I should add a disclaimer here so that the reader knows where I am coming from: I view the work as a pretty mediocre effort; it has some interesting and inspired instrumentation and orchestral textures, and there is no doubt about its originality, but that alone does not make a masterpiece, and in my view this isn't one. Still, even I am almost convinced by this driven, electrical performance with a Concertgebouw on top form which produces some wonderful instrumental colors and smoldering fire and intensity. The various grotesqueries and the nefarious playfulness of the `Marche au supplice' stand out, but overall the players are able to make the most of the at various times glittering, fiery and dreamlike melodies and textures. No less impressive is by Davis's firm grasp of the structure and his ability to make an almost convincing case for the architectonics of this rather rambling creation. The sound quality is excellent as well, so if you want just one version of this work, this is probably the one to go for."