Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Le carnaval romain; Béatrice et Bénédict Overture

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LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Symphonie fantastique; Le carnaval romain; Béatrice et Bénédict Overture
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-90855-2 DDD
A modern orchestra maintaining its repertoire against the inroads of period instruments (there have already been two period Fantastique recordings) can choose to be out-and-out subjective (this is how we feel it: the devil take the others), or to show awareness of the rationale of the ‘early music’ movement and sharpen up its act accordingly. Reviving results may be obtained either way and, knowingly or not, Mehta sets out on the second path. Outstandingly vivid details of instrumentation and dynamics (those tiny crescendos, those perturbing sforzandos) fully animate Berlioz’s vision. The bass is powerfully recorded, a boon with a composer so original in that area. The good intentions fade somewhat with the third movement being played a notch too slow (and with a prominent error from an old edition), and in the march the horns fail to snarl. However, the finale is exciting without being crude. This is among the better recent modern-instrument recordings. It is a pity the booklet not only omits the programme, but repeats the error that Berlioz dissociated himself from it. The Carnaval romain is suitably brilliant, but the comedy of Béatrice et Bénédict, less buoyed up than down by the bass, sounds curiously leaden, although the speeds are in fact authentic. Julian Rushton