LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Berlioz • Rameau
WORKS: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie Suite
PERFORMER: Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902244
Here’s an arresting juxtaposition. More than a century apart, Rameau and Berlioz were outsiders in the Parisian musical hierarchy, and were willing to employ unusual, even ugly, colours in the service of drama, yet they have little else in common. Smart work from the uncredited harpsichordist and taut direction by Daniel Harding anchor the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the suite from Hippolyte et Aricie (1733). The bowing is animated, with bright-toned oboes and a lithe bass line.
The ‘Air en rondeau pour les amours’ is too crisp to be ideally sensual, but the ‘Premier air des Furies’ is brilliantly energised and the ‘Rigadoun en tambourin’ has bite. What really startles, though, is hearing the petal-soft woodwind and lovestruck strings of Berlioz’s ‘Rêveries – Passions’ blossom immediately after Rameau’s final, athletic gavotte. With vibrato selectively applied, Harding’s Symphonie fantastique rivals Philippe Herreweghe’s in its translucency, yet has a Mahlerian quality, at once highly detailed and expansive. The contrast between the girlish tulle of ‘Un bal’and the brooding solitude of ‘Scène aux champs’ is striking, not least because of the space that Harding allows for each phrase. The steady tightening of tension is maintained through an unusually slow ‘Marche au supplice’ and a ‘Songe d’une nuit de sabbat’ busy with beetle-wing spiccato, mocking clarinets and glowering brass.