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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique / Davis, London SO

Release Date: 04/17/2001 
Label:  Lso Live   Catalog #: 7   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It is not far short of 40 years since Sir Colin Davis with the LSO made his first electrifying recording of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and since then he has recorded it twice more for Philips. Now in the super-budget LSO Live series comes this latest version, recorded at the Barbican last September, to confirm the consistency of this greatest of today’s Berlioz interpreters. The differences between the four discs indicate little or no change in the conductor’s approach, but sharply reflect contrasts between the different orchestras, and of different recording acoustics.

The LSO version of 1963, marginally brisker than the others, is the sharpest and most incisive of the four, with the ‘March to the Scaffold’ given a
Read more thrilling bite, helped by cleanly focused Philips sound, which for all its age still sounds fresh and vivid, with very clear stereo separation. The Concertgebouw reading is warmer and richer thanks mainly to the players and their hall, while the 1991 digital version from Vienna is even weightier, though at times less tense.

The latest LSO version, recorded at a slightly lower level with less immediate sound, is in many ways the subtlest of the four, conveying more mystery, with pianissimo s of extreme delicacy beautifully caught. There is an overall gain too from having a live recording of a work with such an individual structure, with its hesitations and pauses. In overall timings it is marginally longer than the earlier versions, maybe also reflecting the conditions of a live performance, even though some of this must have been put together from rehearsal tapes since there is no applause at the very end.

The Beatrice et Benedict Overture is taken from the complete recording of the opera on the same LSO Live label, and makes both a welcome bonus and a tempting sampler. Though the disc comes at super-budget price, it offers splendid notes by David Cairns, author of the definitive, prize-winning biography of the composer.

-- Gramophone [5/2001]
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Works on This Recording

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; France 
Date of Recording: 09/2000 
Venue:  Live  London, England 
Length: 57 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Béatrice et Bénédict: Overture by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860-1862; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Live  London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 15 Secs. 

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