Friday, 14 October 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, October 2011)

BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique / Cléopatre
Rotterdam Philharmonic
BIS SACD-1800 / ****1/2

The young French-Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the Music Director-Designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and will assume that role in the 2012-2013 season. Why he was so highly fancied is amply illustrated in this very fine recording of Hector Berlioz’s landmark Symphonie Fantastique of 1830. At 55 minutes, this is one of the slower readings. However there is never a hint of drag or protractedness, even in the expansive Scene in the Fields. The solo and ensemble playing is nothing short of spectacular, with the romping March to the Scaffold and raucous Dream of the Witches Sabbath coming across most vividly.

The unusual but apt filler is the scene lyrique or cantata Cléopatre (or The Death Of Cleopatra), written just one year before, in Berlioz’s failed attempt to win the coveted Prix de Rome. Here soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci’s portrayal steals the show with her passionate and dramatic colouring of its French lyrics. With these works, Berlioz helped define the Romantic impulse and spirit that swept through European art. Well worth many listens.

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