Notes and Editorial Reviews
The headliner in Testament's Berlioz/André Cluytens disc--part of its excellent series of reissues of the great conductor's recordings--is the conductor's first, 1955 reading of the Symphonie fantastique. Three years later he led a stereo remake with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Cluytens volume of EMI's Great Conductors series offers yet a third--a live 1964 Tokyo concert performance with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra. They're all cut from the same interpretive cloth, and while there's a natural inclination to gravitate toward stereo versions, this monophonic issue boasts vivid sound reproduction and solid bass, lacking only the extra air, transparency, and spatial separation of stereo. It's a good performance too, with
more going for it than just the appeal of the traditional tart French timbres of the winds and brass in an era before national characteristics were largely replaced by an international style of playing.
Cluytens' rhythmic acuity lends sharp inflections to his phrasing of the opening Rêveries, avoiding the amorphous somnolent quality often inflicted upon it. His poised "Un bal" movement is distinguished by the way his lilting waltz conjures up the ballroom floor, and the "Scene in the Country" benefits from lovely winds and a flowing forward momentum that avoids the longeurs that often make this movement overstay its welcome. The last two movements are on a somewhat lesser level. Although the flatulent brass in the "March to the Scaffold" lend a nice touch of vulgarity, the engineering renders the timpani rolls indistinct, and imprecise articulation slightly dulls the excitement of the last movement. It's a good performance, if not one to challenge those by Munch (RCA) and Bernstein (Sony).
The generous filler is 26 minutes' worth of orchestral excerpts from Roméo et Juliette. Here, Cluytens' broadcast orchestra is replaced by the opera house band, with no discernable loss in quality. The group is at its soulful best in the "Love Scene" and in the "Roméo Alone" opening section, and is admirable as well in the tricky cross-rhythms and the warring countermelodies at the Capulet's ball, which in Cluytens' hands have never sounded more Ivesian.
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
ORTF National Orchestra
Written: 1830; France
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