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Tchaikovsky, Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet / Ozawa, BSO


Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 423068   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyHector Berlioz
Performer:  Julia HamariJean DupouyJosé Van Dam
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony OrchestraSan Francisco Symphony OrchestraNew England Conservatory Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 48 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic. Liner notes are not included. This CD is made from high-quality CD-R media.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This well-nigh definitive recording of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet last appeared in a big box called something like “The Berlioz Experience,” surrounded by a bunch of far less desirable performance of the composer’s other major works. Other than that, it has not been reissued since its original CD release, not even in the three large and duplicative Ozawa boxes that Universal has witlessly dumped onto the market lately. We too easily forget that for a time, especially in the 70s, Ozawa did magnificent work in Boston, and some of the best was his Berlioz (The Damnation of Faust was pretty hot too).

This performance starts off with battle music which is simply the last word in hysterical ferocity. Even Muti and Munch have a hard
Read more time keeping up, and anyone who knows those excellent recordings understands what this means. Of course, Boston has always been a magnificent Berlioz orchestra, but give Ozawa credit for pushing them to their limits. The Ball swings along brilliantly too, with real swagger, and the Love Scene, serene and atmospheric, flows along at an ideal tempo. Through it all, the Boston Symphony plays exquisitely.

Perhaps the single high point of the performance, though, is the Queen Mab Scherzo–it’s truly Mendelssohn on steroids: fleet, gossamer, with the fascinating timbres of Berlioz’s scoring set in high relief. Remember, this music was composed in the late 1830s. What future dimension did this guy come from? The performance is so coloristically fascinating that it’s disorienting. Throw in fine choral singing from the New England Conservatory Chorus alongside three excellent soloists, and the result is certainly a reference recording, but one that remains hardly known. Is it just the general lack of appreciation for Berlioz, or Ozawa, or both? Who knows?

Ozawa’s San Francisco recording of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is well-known, and quite good, while the Berlioz remains one of the best productions sonically that DG made in Boston. This performance may be difficult to find, or expensive, but it will doubtless reappear at some point, and when it does, grab it.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Romeo and Juliet Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869/1880; Russia 
2. Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Julia Hamari (Alto), Jean Dupouy (Tenor), José Van Dam (Bass)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; France 

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