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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique; Ibert / Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra

Release Date: 01/31/2008 
Label:  Rca Victor Red Seal Catalog #: 38049  
Composer:  Hector BerliozJacques IbertClaude-Joseph de Lisle
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia OrchestraPhiladelphia Orchestra Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

*** This title is a reissue of a Japanese release with liner notes in Japanese. ***

R E V I E W S:

This is a far more imposing Symphonie fantastique than the one Ormandy recorded earlier for Sony. Here the Philadelphia Orchestra's playing is simply amazing, each soloist and section giving virtuoso performances as Ormandy vividly renders every instrumental color, timbre, and combination in the score, reveling in the composer's orchestral ingenuity and innovation. He was never big on the music's fantasy and romance (he's a bit stingy with rubato in the first movement); for that you have to look to Bernstein, Munch, or Muti. But, like Beecham, Ormandy goes for the big sound and lets his band play full-out.
Read more Factor in Max Wilcox's reverberant, wide-ranging recording and you've got one of the loudest Symphonie fantastique's on disc (most of the finale sounds like the Tuba mirum from Berlioz's Requiem).

Ibert's Escales goes to the other extreme with the Philadelphia strings making seductively silken sounds in the opening Rome movement--but Ormandy fans the flames anew in the vibrantly dancing Valencia finale. Last comes Berlioz's gargantuan arrangement (repeated seemingly ad infinitum) of the traditional "La marseillaise", replete with militaristic brass and percussion and the fervent singing of the Philadephia Orchestra Chorus. The 1970s recordings, remastered by RCA Japan, feature enhanced clarity, presence, and impact. Available on-demand from Arkivmusic.com.

--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com

This 1976 reading is Ormandy’s third recording of the Symphonie fantastique; it is missing from the discography of the orchestra in the commemorative volume, “The Philadelphia Orchestra: A Century of Music.” If not as electric as Bernstein’s New York version, or the five by Pierre Monteux, it is a mainstream interpretation (except for cornet parts played an octave higher than indicated at the climax of the first movement, and rewritten entirely in the “Marche au supplice”), superbly played. The difficult cross rhythms near the end of the “Witches’ round dance” are as clear and accurate as in any performance I know. The sound, typically for the series, is somewhat more distant than we are used to from Ormandy’s Columbia recordings, but is overall quite good. Escales, the title work in identical mono and Columbia stereo LP collections, is a showpiece for principal flutist Murray Panitz and oboist John de Lancie, recorded in 1970. Berlioz’s version of La marseillaise is eight-and-a-half minutes long, and couldn’t be by anyone else.

Fanfare: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; France 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1976 
Escales by Jacques Ibert
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; France 
Date of Recording: 2/1970 
Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin "La marseillaise" by Claude-Joseph de Lisle
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1792; France 
Date of Recording: 3/23/1972 
Notes: Arranger: Berlioz 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphonie fantastique (Berlioz): V. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath
Escales (Ibert): I. Rome - Palermo
Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin "La marseillaise" (de Lisle)

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