The Fantaisie sur la Tempete de Shakespeare was composed shortly after Berlioz had won the coveted Prix de Rome (at the fourth attempt) with his cantata Sardanapale, and was originally conceived as a concert overture, with chorus. After various reworkings of the material, the four-movement Fantaisie, as recorded here, became the finale of Berlioz’s ‘monodrama’ Lelio- a juxtaposition of existing material interlinked with dramatic monologues recited by the ‘artist’ at the center of the work. Symphonie fantastique, Berlioz’s best-known work by some distance, remains an evergreen in the orchestral repertoire, and beloved of audiences the world over. The idiomatic approach to orchestration, grounded in Berlioz’s musical training in FrenchRead more provincial wind-bands, and the revolutionary approach to the prevailing conventions of musical form at the time shine through in the five-movement masterpiece, which remains one of the most vividly programmatic symphonies ever written. This recording was made after a pair of performances in September 2018 in the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, and is made in Surround Sound.
You might not think the world needs another reading of the Symphonie fantastique, but Davis' ease with the orchestra enables him to pull off a number of unusual orchestral effects. The real find here is the Fantaisie sur La Tempète de Shakespeare (Fantasy on Shakespeare's The Tempest). It is a charming collection of delicate orchestral displays complete with a choir singing words from The Tempest, or something like them, in Italian. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir achieves special grace here, and this little performance is worth the price of admission.