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Berlioz: Harold in Italy; La Captive; plus works by Weber and Martini

Lawrence Power (viola); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Manze (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CD_CDA68193_Berlioz_cmyk

Berlioz Harold in Italy; La Captive (arr. Manze); Weber: Andante und Rondo Ungarese; Aufforderung zum Tanz (arr. Berlioz); Martini: Plaisir d’Amour (arr. Berlioz/Manze)
Lawrence Power (viola); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Manze
Hyperion CDA 68193 71:11 mins

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Andrew Manze’s background as period string player might be expected to give him some particular feeling for this curious quasi-concerto, and so it proves. He takes it at a crisp pace from the opening, plunging towards the initial fortissimo without, like many, lingering to develop the brooding atmosphere. The viola’s entry, with its long-breathed and yearning melody, stands out all the more effectively. Berlioz sought to make the solo instrument ‘a sort of melancholy dreamer,’ always maintaining its own individuality amid poetic recollections of his own Childe Harold-like wanderings in the Italian Abruzzi. Manze keeps this contrast alive, sweeping us along with a crackling energetic development which has the excellent Bergen players working flat out to slightly manic effect, so that the pastoral Pilgrims’ scene, though still pretty brisk, comes as an effective relief. The ‘Serenade’ is properly lyrical, but Manze makes the ‘Brigands’ Orgy’ more rumbustious than savage. Altogether it’s an exciting, intriguing reading, not least because of Lawrence Power’s notably lyrical, eloquent playing; you really feel this is an individual voice. But Manze’s sheer dynamism won’t suit everyone. Many may prefer lusher, more urbane versions like Valery Gergiev with Antoine Tamestit, while for me Sir Colin Davis, whether with Noboku Imai or Tabea Zimmermann, and period-instrument recordings by Marc Minkowski, also with Tamestit, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner with Gerard Caussé, strike a surer balance between Berliozian passion and atmosphere. This is still an exhilarating alternative, with attractive couplings, especially the celebrated Weber arrangement and the rarer Andante.

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Michael Scott Rohan