Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Symphonie fantastique; Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80578
Choosing the slow-burn ‘Love Scene’ from Romeo and Juliet as companion-piece was a wise move on Paavo Järvi’s part, for the Adagio of his Symphonie fantastique is the most translucent I’ve heard. This is the point at which the conductor’s detailed phrasing, the velvety support of the recording and the pristine beauty of the Cincinnati strings meet at their best (what a reminder this is, by the way, of those LP days when not only could you give up hope of hearing Berlioz’s finely honed poetry against a silent background but in some cases you even had to turn the side halfway through the movement). Both here and in the opening ‘Rêveries’, one registers a slimline version of what Colin Davis continues to achieve with the London Symphony Orchestra – captured in concert on another recent bargain disc from the orchestra. The bonus of Davis’s glistening harp consort in the Waltz is matched here by an impressive cornet solo.

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In neither case is there the electricity generated by a Beecham or a Markevitch, but the gains in sophistication are considerable (Davis’s old Concertgebouw recording still remains a golden mean). Here the performance burns with a steady, luminous flame that never quite becomes a conflagration; with Järvi senior, one imagines, the reverse would be true. Sonically, though, the ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ is impressive, crowned by the resonance of apocalyptic bells. Romeo and Juliet’s youthful passion is beautifully done, the music’s restraint always respected but the yearning between the lines perfectly expressed. More Berlioz from this team, please. David Nice