This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Another feather in the Dutoit/Montreal/Decca cap, not least for the sound engineers' achievement in so brilliantly capturing the mammoth sonorities of the Symphonie funebre et triomphale (whose first performance Berlioz conducted walking backwards at the head of his huge wind-and-percussion band, though—alas for the legend!—with a baton, not a sword). For concert hall, rather than open air performance he later added strings and a chorus, and it is this version that is adopted here (as it was in Colin Davis's 1969 Philips recording). Splendid as that issue was, this new one even surpasses it in clarity and impact, with its majestic brass chords and a chorus that adds incisively to the final climax. Whether Dutoit actually employed Berlioz's
demanded minimum of 107 players (not counting the strings) or included some of the more exotic instruments listed in the score, is perhaps open to question, but the result is, as the composer intended, indeed awe-inspiring; and to this Dutoit's absolute control of the march's inexorable onward sweep, and the finely-delivered solo trombone oration, powerfully contribute.
A year earlier, in 1839, Berlioz had produced, thanks to Paganini's generosity, his ''dramatic symphony'' Romeo et Juliette, whose totally unconventional form baffled contemporary critics (and has continued to trouble some) but won Wagner's whole-hearted admiration. It was, as JW elucidates in his exemplary notes an imaginative translation into musical terms of Shakespeare's mixture within the same play of the tragic and comic, of action and reflection, but it contains not a single line of Shakespeare, and owes much to the Ninth Symphony of another of Berlioz's idols, Beethoven. Descriptive or evocative orchestral movements roughly correspond to the first three of an orthodox symphony, but the are interspersed with a choral commentary (equivalent to the play's prologue) and an apostrophe of young love, and the finale is a programmatic sequence of vocal tableaux. Berlioz chose the orchestra, however, to carry the main weight of the work; and the Montreal orchestra, under Dutoit's clear-headed but sensitive direction, rise nobly to the occasion. They tear at full speed into the initial fugato depicting the conflict between the two Veronese families, are gossamer-light in the Queen Mab scherzo, and produce joyous buoyance (while maintaining admirable articulation) in the ball scene. In the other orchestral movements Dutoit keeps a fine sense of proportion: Romeo's sighs are expressively delineated (with an appealing oboe solo in the Larghetto) without becoming over-emotional, and yearning rather than passion—no unneeded accelerandos and ritardandos, as with Barenboim (DG 2707 115, 10/80—nla)—characterizes the famous love scene, which vividly conjures up the atmosphere of a hot Italian night.
The work of the two choruses complements the high standard of the playing: particularly striking is the scene shortly before the end when, despite Friar Laurence's attempt to explain the tragedy calmly, a quarrel once more threatens to erupt between the families. Tom Krause makes a well poised and dignified Friar—a good dramatic presence, but not too operatic; and Alberto Cupido, instantaneously setting a quicksilver mood, is sparklingly alive in the early Mab scherzetto. Only Florence Quivar disappoints in her couplets about first love: her line is none too steady, and her higher notes tend to be sharp. At first one may be inclined to think that orchestra and chorus are set a trifle far back (presumably to avoid overloading in such tremendous bursts as at the final ''Amis pour toujours!''), but the balance throughout is irreproachable, with the single exception that the trombone recitative depicting the prince's stern edict obscures other detail. This is a notable addition to Dutoit's continuing Berlioz cycle.'
-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone [12/1986]
Works on This Recording
Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17 by Hector Berlioz
Tom Krause (Bass),
Alberto Cupido (Tenor),
Florence Quivar (Mezzo Soprano)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1839; France
Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15 by Hector Berlioz
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1840; France
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