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Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique / Francois-xavier Roth, Les Siecles

Berlioz / Les Siecles / Roth
Release Date: 08/10/2010 
Label:  Actes Sud   Catalog #: 2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique François-Xavier Roth, cond; Les Siècles MUSICALES ACTES SUD 0369 (51:57)

Les Siècles is a seven-year-old chamber orchestra of young French musicians who call themselves “a chamber orchestra for the 21st century.” Somehow they have a mass of period instruments at their disposal and they use the appropriate instruments whenever they play. More remarkably, they have a popular French TV show named Presto on Read more which they play classical music. They claim that the show has been seen by three million viewers. I suppose we have had nothing like that since my youth, when Leonard Bernstein emoted about Beethoven on national television.

So here we have a Symphonie Fantastique by a hip young chamber orchestra. Would that be what Berlioz wanted? I always have thought of him as wanting masses of people not only in the audience, but on stage. This performance is distinctive. The tempos are typically fast, and the playing intense, the effect anxious. I’ve heard it said that the beautiful waltz, Un bal , plays itself. It seemed to when Colin Davis conducted it with the London Symphony in a recording that is still my favorite. No one else in my experience has quite reproduced that ecstatic performance, not even Davis in his later recording. Here we find the waltz is restless. At one point, the violins, playing what I’ve always heard as a lilting background phrase, intrude like a bunch of children rushing into an adults’ party. It’s exciting, though not, I think, quite right.

Yet it is mostly hard to fault the energy and liveliness of the performance, from the almost jaunty first movement on to the somewhat souped-up horrors of the last movement. No, they don’t produce the occasional mystery of the piece as well as others. I admire the drumrolIs in the storm scene, but don’t find that Roth creates the sense of expectation that Davis and others do. I wouldn’t, then, have this as my only recording, but Roth and his chamber orchestra have made a recording that stands out, not for its suggestiveness or subtlety, but for its vigor and new balances.

FANFARE: Michael Ullman
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Works on This Recording

Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  François-Xavier Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Siècles
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; France 
Date of Recording: 08/30/2009 
Venue:  Live  La Côte-Saint-André (Berlioz Festival) 
Length: 51 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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