Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Lélio; Tristia

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Symphonie fantastique; Lélio; Tristia
PERFORMER: Richard Clement, Gordon Gietz (tenor), Philippe Rouillon (baritone), Lambert Wilson (narrator); Montreal SO & Chorus/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 458 011-2 Reissue (1995)
The ending of the Symphonie fantastique is so final – the image of the ideal beloved debased almost beyond recognition – that the idea of a sequel seems faintly ridiculous. But, almost unbelievably, Lélio carries on where the Symphony leaves off, with a dramatic reciter (essentially Berlioz himself) trying to make sense of his dreams, and finally realising that his longings are insatiable. Lélio is nowhere near as musically coherent as the Symphonie fantastique, but it’s full of strikingly original things, like the weird ‘Chorus of Shades’, and it all comes across vividly in this confident and impassioned performance. So, too, does the Symphony: Dutoit clearly relishes Berlioz’s orchestral wizardry – whether garish or subtle – but his version also carries a surprisingly high emotional charge. Tristia is similarly well worth having, especially for the grim Funeral March Berlioz composed for the final scene of Hamlet – one of the most powerful and unsettling things he ever wrote. Stephen Johnson