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Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Lélio, ou Le Retour a la vie

Orchestre National de l’ORTF, Jean Martinon

Berlioz regarded the Symphonie Fantastique and Lélio as a pair, but whereas both are strange and certainly original works for their time, the structure of the Symphonie is masterly as well as unique, whereas Lélio is controversial, to say the least, with its mix of spoken narration and music for soloists, chorus and orchestra, including a Goethe ballad for tenor and piano. On this set, first comes a truly outstanding version of the Symphonie Fantastique. Martinon includes the first movement exposition repeat, and he also provides the extra brass parts, sometimes omitted. The reading is full of neurotic undertones, even in the waltz, yet it never loses control and its impetuousness is very convincing, especially in the opening movement and the "Scene au champs", which is phrased most seductively. The "Marche au supplice" is full of power and menace, and the finale has a wild flamboyance that is highly compulsive—the bell strokes are made to seem like the very knell of doom. The sound is remarkably vivid and this performance can certainly be counted among the really outstanding versions of an elusive work. When it comes to “Lelio,” Martinon is equally persuasive and magnificent. The narration, a key element of the piece, is splendidly recited by the noted French actor Jean Topart. Besides using the idée fixe from the Symphonie, Berlioz drew on newly composed music to illustrate the speaker’s soliloquy and obsessions, including a brigand’s song and a fantasy on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The performance has plenty of life and style, and is well sung by Charles Burles, Nicolai Gedda, and Jean Van Gorp. As well, the recording of both pieces is suitably atmospheric. There is no question that this set makes for a superlative representation of the pair of works as Berlioz wanted them performed.

Brand New /sealed 2 CD
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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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