Berlioz/Liszt: Symphonie fantastique; Les Préludes

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz/Liszt
WORKS: Symphonie fantastique; Les Préludes
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Georg Solti
Solti has certainly mellowed; his Berlioz used to be among the brash ones I tried to avoid. His new Fantastique is almost too affectionate, the introduction and slow movements hanging fire a little, the first Allegro beginning rather carefully. Symptoms of poetic insufficiency appear in the finale, with high tinkling funeral bells and a pretty scale rather than any attempt at a woodwind glissando. The two final movements are energetic rather than, as they should be, grotesque. This is a Fantastique to hear analytically rather than relish for its colouristic and imaginative qualities. The sonorities are wonderfully clear; one seldom hears so much of a Berlioz bass, and some trick of the microphones causes the cellos to speak with unusual force, both here and in Les Préludes. The latter is an agreeable filler, but suffers from woodwind being overshadowed by strings (let alone brass), even when playing the main theme. In general the Chicago orchestra is a little too smooth, and in both pieces the brass makes for crude C major climaxes. Julian Rushton