Notes and Editorial Reviews
There’s more to this recording than the best funeral bells and the most focused tuba playing on disc in the finale of the Fantastique. Karajan did not record much Berlioz, but like many German conductors he had a special feeling for this particular work. He recorded it three times, once for EMI and twice for DG, the present version being his last and, on balance, most compelling.
Whether we’re talking about an especially cogent opening movement, the super-elegant waltz, or an unusually flowing and impressively sustained “Scène aux champs,” Karajan characterizes the piece beautifully, and of course the playing of the Berlin Philharmonic is pretty dazzling. The March to the Scaffold has a real spring to its step–yes, you
won’t hear those trombone pedal tones as in some other performances (they do tend to come and go), but there’s no stinting on the grotesquerie; and the finale, as already suggested, is gratifyingly scary even if it’s not as frenetic as the Munch (but then, who is?). The two extracts from The Damnation of Faust are just as well done, and of course make the obvious filler.
The sonics are quite good from this source. The only depressing thing is that this performance may be difficult to source outside of the Karajan 70s box. This is a great, historically undervalued disc. It may not sound terribly “French,” but it does sound wonderful.
Works on This Recording
Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 by Hector Berlioz
Herbert von Karajan
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1830; France
Date of Recording: 1975
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