The date is September 11, 1827. As is the rest of Europe, Paris is mesmerised at the time by English culture. Among the audience attending a performance Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Théatre Odeon is the 23-year-old composer Hector Berlioz, who is subsequently overwhelmed by the perceptive imagination of this dramatic poet. And he discovers the actress Harriet Smithson, who is playing the role of Ophelia, to be at least equally impressive. Thus the young composer is smitten by an all-consuming passion for Shakespeare and the actress alike. Later, he states prophetically that this woman will one day become his wife, and that he will write his greatest symphony based on this drama.
Total time: 01:06:26
|Original Recording Format|
Mark Donahue, Dirk Sobotka
Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||July 31, 2015|
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.
This DSD recording from Pentatone 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. 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 a seemingly endless array of skillfully crafted sounds. Highly recommended. 5 Stars.
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