Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Ozawa
PentaTone RQR PTC 5186 211
Classical - Orchestral
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The seeds were planted in the early 1970s when Deutsche Grammophon realised what amazing results could be achieved by recording the multi-channel tapes, with either four or eight channels. Yet, due to a few restrictions, they never fully blossomed. Flaws in the playback equipment meant that music connoisseurs were prevented from enjoying these recordings in the way that artists, producers, engineers and other professionals intended, even though recording technology was already way ahead of its time.
Now over a quarter of a century later and thanks to the arrival of the multi channel Super Audio CD, there is finally a system available which permits these precious recordings to be released in the quality they deserved back then.
As a result of PENTATONE’s labour of love re-recording and re-mastering this release, be prepared to be mesmerised by the effect, drama and imagination presented in Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, as it was the first time he laid eyes on the highly regarded actress Harriet Smithson. For Symphonie fantastique, Berlioz was inspired in part by Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. He once claimed, “The effect of her wonderful talent, or rather her dramatic genius on my imagination and my heart, can be compared only with the effect that the poet himself had on me”.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa performed in exceptionally fine form in this recording, interpreting Berlioz’s imagination ever so vividly. Now on SACD, we finally get to experience the orchestra’s vigorous performance in the sound quality intended as when it was recorded.
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Review by Graham Williams - March 11, 2015
PENTATONE's remarkable re-masterings of quadraphonic tapes from the 1970s in their RQR series breathed new life into many recordings that over the subsequent decades have achieved classic status, so this latest issue – one of a series of releases from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue – is most welcome.
The performance of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique on this hybrid multi-channel SACD was taped at Boston Symphony Hall in February 1973 shortly after Seiji Ozawa had begun his tenure as Musical Director with the orchestra (one that lasted for a remarkable 29 years) and led to a number of outstanding recordings during this period.
The opening of 'Rêverie, Passions' is finely moulded and Ozawa brings terrific urgency and excitement to the central section of this movement (marked Allegro agitato ed appassionato assai).
After a beautifully poised waltz ('Un bal'), the slow movement, which in some hands can drag, is light and flowing thanks to the marvellously expressive string playing; though some may baulk at Ozawa's tendency to accelerate as the work progresses. The 'Marche au supplice' is very fast and almost jaunty whilst the final 'Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat' is a thrilling white-knuckle ride thanks to the crispness of attack and virtuoso playing of the orchestra.
There is, however, one important caveat; Ozawa omits the exposition repeat in the work's opening movement as well as that in the 'Marche au Supplice' (something that was more common in performances of the work in those days than it is today). This shortens what is already a fleet performance of the work to 47'14” seconds which is short measure for a full price issue. Though Ozawa's recording in no way supplants that by Sir Colin Davis and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (also on the PENTATONE label Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Davis), it is nevertheless well worth hearing and can be recommended for both the elegance and suppleness of Ozawa's performance and especially the magnificent playing of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a body often deservedly described as 'The Aristocrat of Orchestras'.
The 4.0 channel quadraphonic recording is quite miraculous in the way it captures the reverberant ambience of Symphony Hall, Boston while managing to retain instrumental clarity even when the incisiveness brass and percussion are playing at full tilt.
Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net