Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette

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COMPOSERS: Berlioz
LABELS: RCA Victor Living Stereo
WORKS: Symphonie fantastique; Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette
PERFORMER: Boston SO/Charles Munch
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68979 2 ADD Reissue (1954, 61)
Only one of these reissues is by a specialist Berlioz conductor, Munch, whose 1954 Fantastique, for three movements, is among the most beautiful on record, always sensitive even in its unfashionable freedom with tempi. Despite generally fine engineering, loud sounds show their age, and the Roméo extract is curiously uningratiating.

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Harsh sound may help preserve the exciting dynamic range of Kubelik’s 1981 live performance: engineers are not to blame for a wobbly oboe (the 1962 Corsaire is relatively dim). There are occasional lapses of control, but Kubelik’s unfailing warmth and musicality justifies the reissue.

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EMI has already re-issued Previn’s fine Fantastique, supplemented here by good overture performances. But this bargain issue of nearly all Berlioz’s least neglected music is dominated by Bernstein’s exaggerated Fantastique, crudely nuanced, with the slowest recorded waltz, and a finale whose grossness only Karajan matches. Neither was a serious Berliozian, although this Harold in Italy performance, with viola soloist Donald McInnes, is passable. Julian Rushton