Ugh. This CD is impossible to review. It's not bad,
so I can't tell you why I disliked it. It's not very good, either, so
I can't tell you why I liked it. It's not even dull. It just sort of
. It exists, without any distinguishing characteristics you
could use to discern this Symphonie fantastique
from any other.
After my first listen, I could hardly remember anything about the performance.
Everything is done well; not bad enough to be memorable but not good
enough to be memorable. Phrases in many places lack the extra thrill
of manic inspiration which you hear in Bernstein or Martinon. The pace
isn't sleepy, either; it's average speed but soft focus. The slow movement
is again well-paced, and never boring; the 'March' ditto, but also not
calling attention to any special qualities beyond being correct. The
chimes in the finale are tinny and high-pitched.
The Symphonie fantastique
is one of those works that's hard to
play very well, and even harder to play unforgettably. The conductor
and virtually every instrument face a battle against the odds if their
version is to really stand out and have the kind of nutty, fever-dream
personality required without being absurd or sloppy. Bernstein managed
it; Martinon managed it; Colin Davis managed it twice. All too often
these days we settle for mere proficiency and professionalism. This
disc certainly has that. I'm sure it was an enjoyable live concert.
However, even when I sat down with the express purpose of listening
carefully for this review, my attention wandered and I read a book and
sent an e-mail and didn't notice much of distinction.
Andrés Orozco-Estrada has just been appointed music director
of my former hometown band, the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In Texas,
a Hispanic conductor will help with community outreach, business and
charity ties, as well as building an excited audience. I saw a Houston
Symphony “Latin Fiesta” program which sold out every last
seat, and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela played to a
concert hall that felt more like a giant party. Orozco-Estrada will
be good for the city in that way. It is to be hoped that he will mature
enough to bring something more to the music than the competence he already
Masterwork Index: Symphonie