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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique; Rameau: Les Boreades Suite / Rattle

Berlioz / Rameau / Bpo / Rattle
Release Date: 01/26/2010 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2057558  
Composer:  Hector BerliozJean-Philippe Rameau
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Boréades (Ballet suite)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Recorded live at the Philharmonie, Berlin, 6-8 November 1993.

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 87 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)


RAMEAU Les Read more Boréades: Ballet suite. BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique Sir Simon Rattle, cond; Berlin PO MEDICI ARTS 2057558 (DVD: 87:00) Live: Berlin 11/6-8/1993.

This is the first visual record of a live concert by Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic. Six years after it, the orchestra voted by a large majority to make him its new principal conductor and artistic director, succeeding Claudio Abbado, who was never really liked in Berlin. Since that time, of course, the Berlin Philharmonic and Rattle have “grown together” in more ways than one. They have grown closer together, and Rattle has continued to grow in the depth of his interpretations.

When one thinks of Rattle’s associations with French music, one usually thinks in terms of the early 20th-century masters such as Debussy and Ravel. Berlioz doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for a man who has also conducted a lot of Mahler, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks of him as a Rameau specialist. And yet he not only does a great job on this suite of 13 pieces from the ballet Les Boréades, ou Abaris, he makes Rameau come alive in a way that many historically informed orchestras can only dream of. Using reduced forces but not period instruments, he brings the same kind of warmth and color to 18th-century music that Klemperer did, and without Klemperer’s sometimes heavy-handed tempos. The playing is not only warm and immaculately clean, a perfect fusion of precision and feeling, but also playful. I absolutely loved this performance, and I think you will too.

As I indicated in my review of his Debussy/Ravel set with both Berlin and British orchestras ( Fanfare 32:6), Rattle can sometimes blow hot and cold interpretively; therefore, even though the Rameau was magical, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Berlioz. From the first note, I was mesmerized by “Reveries.” He had the full measure of this score; in fact, I would rank this performance alongside my very favorites of all time, the 1930 Monteux, 1962 Munch, 1972 Colin Davis, and 1974 Jean Martinon (remember him?). Unlike Monteux and Munch, Rattle does not push the beat so impetuously, but I swear to you, he pulls out just as much inner detail and builds so naturally to his climaxes that you don’t even notice (so much as in others’ recordings) the slow passages in the first movement as draggy or annoying. Everything has its place, the musical flow is perfect, and the way he manages a continuous line through the music places him head and shoulders above most other conductors who have attempted to do so. In the middle of “Un bal,” where the music swoops down an octave, I swear, you can feel the music drop. For me, personally, the one disappointing moment was the brass entrance in “Marche au supplice”; it just didn’t have enough bite or menace. But otherwise, this was perfection. Again, there is an apropos comparison here with Klemperer in Mahler, which for me is a high compliment indeed.

I’m sure that, to some, Rattle’s podium manner seems affected. He doesn’t quite dance, but he’s a champion face-maker, eye-bugging, smiling, puffing cheeks, and at times he uses his baton like a teacher uses her yardstick to whack the blackboard. But I see this as part of his natural enthusiasm for the music. If you don’t like it, just close your eyes when he’s onscreen. You’ll still hear two magnificent performances.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; France 
Les Boréades: Suite by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1764; France 

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