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Reviews: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Davis

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Reviews: 4

Site review by Polly Nomial November 10, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by madisonears October 25, 2007 (9 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This has long been a favorite performance of me and many critics. Davis is certainly in touch with the spirit of Berlioz, and, with this piece, he wrings every bit of emotion out of it, from dark humor to sheer terror and despair. Every element of an ideal performance seems to be in place: perfect accents, faultless tempi, and gorgeous playing by the orchestra. This 30+ year old recording has lost none of its glamour, with effective low end, a wonderful bloom to the midrange, and atmospheric, if not ideally transparent, highs. I can't imagine anyone not liking this performance, except Hurwitz at Classics Today, who seems bent on being merely contrary to the gushing Penguin recommendation.

Compared to Jarvi, this performance has more inner tension, more excitement, and is more expressive without resorting to extreme tempi. The waltz is so lilting and lovely in a warped kind of way that you want to grab a partner and spin her around the room. Only a few minutes later, you'd rather kill her and see her burning in hell. The Telarc recording is superior in transparency and frequency extremes, but this older recording is warmer, somehow more full and engaging. This is definitely a classic worthy of remastering and the SACD treatment. The sonics are better than either Munch on RCA or Paray on MLP.

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Review by nickc March 26, 2008 (10 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Like me I suppose a lot of readers had this on CD and bought it to see how much improvement there was in the master tapes. Well there is an improvement, but unfortunately I can't summon as much enthusiasm for the sound as the other reviewers.

This was recorded in 1974 and it would be idle to pretend it sounds anywhere as good as a new RCO Live disc, like the Mahler 1st. or 4th. Firstly I agree with Polly that it should have been mixed to 5.0, not left as 4.0 - we are left with a slight hole in the middle. Before anyone shouts me down by saying my main L/R probably aren't in perfect alignment, some of the 4.0 recordings I have are OK - I just prefer the full 3 channels being utilised as it seems to spread the sound so much more easily.

My main gripe is the thinness of the strings. Bass is reasonable and woodwinds are fine, but the famed strings of the Concertgebouw just sound really thin, and a lot smaller scale than they do with modern recordings. We are also further back than I like with a lot of reflections coming from the rears. This seems to be a litany of complaints but we have been spoilt with new recordings and that is how it sounds to me.

The performance is of course one of the most famous and has always been well regarded. Should you buy it? I would still give a qualified yes, but, of course, don't expect it to sound as good as a modern recording.

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Review by Luukas February 21, 2015 (7 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
AT LAST! This is perhaps the best recording of Berlioz's nightmarish symphony and finally it is available on multi-channel SACD!

The following text has taken from the booklet:
"In the early 1970's, Philips Classics was already highly aware of the advantages offered by multi-channel music reproduction compared to the stereo techniques in use at the time. The quadraphonic tapes (4-channels recordings) from that period are a classic example of a recording technique way ahead of its time. Now - over a quarter of a century later - thanks to the arrival of the multi-channel Super Audio CD (SA-CD), there is finally a system which permits us to release these recordings in their original form". Jean Marie Geijsen (abridged)

Sir Colin Davis' interpretation isn't change - it is still magnificent - but recording sound is much better. It is clear and natural.
I listened with Full Score (Breitkopf & Härtel Complete Works Edition). The remasteresting brought more instrumental details to us. And - of course - Concertgebouw's acoustics surrounded me. It was impressed listening experience.
The disc and booklet were packaged in a Super Jewel Box.

Overall results:
Performance: ***** (Outstanding)
Recording: *****
Packaging: *****

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