Composer: Hector Berlioz
Orchestra: Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Paul Paray
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Size: 367 MB
01. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 – 1. Rêveries. Passions (Largo – Allegro agitato ed appassionato assai)
02. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 – 2. Un bal (Valse: Allegro non troppo)
03. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 – 3. Scène aux champs (Adagio)
04. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 – 4. Marche au supplice (Allegretto non troppo)
05. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 – 5. Songe d’une nuit du Sabbat (Larghetto – Allegro – Ronde du Sabbat: Poco meno mosso)
06. Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust, Op.24 – Part 1 – Marche hongroise
07. Berlioz: Les Troyens – Concert version – Marche troyenne
08. Berlioz: Overture “Le corsaire”, Op.21
09. Berlioz: Overture “Le carnaval romain”, Op.9
Best Recording Of The No. 1 Romantic Symphony
The reviewer from Texas is a learned music student, and is genuinely passionate about romantic music. Without a doubt, Paul Paray’s 60’s recording (originally on LP and in this cd there is original liner notes), is the greatest recording of the romantic symphony, the Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. As a delicious bonus, Paul Paray also conducts other great instrumental works by Berlioz, including the Overture to his monumental opera, Les Troyens (the French opera equivalent of Wagne’rs Ring operas) and the Roman Carnival Overture. At Paul Paray’s baton, the structure and flowing melodic lines of the symphony are appropriately romantic, lilting and lush, especially in the “Reveries and Passions” first movement, the introduction of the idee fixe (fixed idea or theme, in this case, the hero’s romantic love interest), “A Ball” and “Scene In The Countyside”. Paray adds variety and contrast to the final movements, effectively dramatic and intense, as the darker aspects of the symphony unfold “The Witch’s Sabbath” and “March To The Scaffold”.
It is said that perhaps even Berlioz himself indulged in opium to compose this incredible symphony. Artists in the 19th century were known to hallucinate and create “artificial paradises” for inspiration while taking drugs as heavy as cocaine is today. The symphony tells the story of a young artist and hopeless romantic, without a name, who falls in love with a beautiful and ideal woman (her signature theme is the idee fixe, which turns up in each of the movements). He is infatuated and obscessed by her, seeing her virtually everywhere, including a masked ball. But after the scene in the countryside, there is a great change. The woman he loves has evidently jilted him and becomes a darker person. In the “Witches Sabbath” she is a witch and quite prepared to have him killed. In the final movement, March To The Scaffold, the hero is lead to an execution block where the axe is dropped on him by his own beloved.
The intense symphony encompasses the greatest elements of Romanticism in the 19th century. It has a romantic story, orchestrated with lush strings and winds, it has drama and darkness, full of fire and a nearly Beethoven-like finale. This is the best recording because it does not drag on seemingly forever in the slower tempos, it is balanced and full of variety and contrasted with the dark drama of the last movements. It is said that this symphony has two sides- Apollonyan, meaning classical, perfect aesthetic musical structure, and the Dyonisian, wild, orgiastic and frenzied horror. This recording blends both extremes to perfection. I am a music teacher and recommend this to any serious listener of classical music who will appreciate everything about the living art of symphonic music.