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Berlioz: Harold En Italie, Tristia / Gardiner, Caussé

Release Date: 07/30/1996 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 446676   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Gérard Caussé
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et RomantiqueMonteverdi Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Altogether a thrilling performance, highly recommendable, recorded in cleanly focused sound against a warm acoustic.

Gardiner here follows up his previous Philips Berlioz recordings with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique – the Symphonie fantastique (6/93) and the rediscovered Messe solennelle (4/94) – with a searingly dramatic account of the later programme symphony, Harold in Italy. If anything this performance is even more biting in its impact, with textures transparent yet with plenty of weight, not least in the heavy brass. In a commentary on Berlioz and the conductor – shown recently on television – Gardiner puts as the first two of the conductor’s functions “to set the emotional temperature of the piece”
Read more and “to indicate the kaleidoscopic changes of mood that so characterize the music of Berlioz”.

Both are clearly reflected in this performance, with contrasts heightened by the extra sharpness of focus with period instruments, but it is that second ‘kaleidoscopic’ function which comes out most strikingly. The romantic bravado of Byron’s hero is regularly reflected in the element of wildness and unpredictability in Berlioz’s writing, even to a degree of hysteria. It is to Gardiner’s credit that, like Sir Colin Davis in a previous Philips recording (also coupled with Tristia), he conveys that element of wildness without ever slackening control, or allowing imprecisions of ensemble, as for example Leonard Bernstein does at the very end of the finale (Allegro frenetico) in his EMI version, thrilling though it is.

With Gardiner dynamic contrasts are extreme, far more strikingly so than in most period-instrument performances, and some of the pianissimos from the ORR strings are ravishing. The central Canto religioso of the Pilgrims’ hymn second movement provides a remarkable instance, with the arpeggios sul ponticello of the solo viola far more eerie than usual (track 2, 2'48'').

The viola soloist, Gerard Causse, earlier recorded this work with Michel Plasson for EMI, and it is fascinating to compare his period reading here, with far more limited use of vibrato, in contrast with the fat, romantic sound he produced before. Yet for the smooth phrases of Harold’s theme, the work’s motto, Causse consciously produces warm tone, thanks to a measure of vibrato. Again it is a fine solo performance, but not so dominant that one feels the lack of a soloist in the last three-quarters of the finale. It is there that Gardiner’s reading, intense from the start, reaches white heat, and it is worth noting that there, as in the rest of the performance, his speeds are never excessively fast. Indeed, the only movement where Plasson is not faster is the Pilgrims’ March. Altogether a thrilling performance, highly recommendable to those who would not normally consider a version with period instruments.

In the three movements of Tristia Gardiner, using his own Monteverdi Choir, gives equally refreshing performances, and here even more strikingly the dynamic contrasts are more extreme than in Davis’s analogue recording. So the epilogue to the “Hamlet Funeral March”, the third of the three movements, is the more chilling and broken in mood for the extreme hush of the pianissimo. The easily lilting speed for the ballad, “La mort d’Ophelie”, also is enhanced by the hushed string comments between verses. Davis’s rival CD is a compilation which additionally includes the separate Preludes to Les Troyens a Carthage, but anyone wanting new revelation in Berlioz will not be disappointed in the new disc, recorded in cleanly focused sound against a warm acoustic.'

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone 8/1996
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Works on This Recording

Harold en Italie, Op. 16 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1994 
Venue:  All Hollows Church, London, England 
Length: 40 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Tristia, Op. 18 by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monteverdi Choir,  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831/1848; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1994 
Venue:  All Hollows Church, London, England 
Length: 18 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Language: French 

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