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Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 (1830)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
rec. 1973. Symphony Hall, Boston, USA
Original 1973 quadraphonic recording, re-mastered in 2014
PENTATONE PTC5186211 SACD [47:14]

Pentatone’s ambitious undertaking to enhance quadraphonic tapes gleaned from a period spanning the 1960s into the 1980s will captivate. Tenured for 29 years with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Seiji Ozawa’s legacy was already germinating as early as 1973. From that same year comes this historic and phantasmagorical recording.

The life of Hector Berlioz could never be characterized as normal: his father, Louis, was a man who attempted to mold and direct his son into the field of medicine. As a child, Berlioz was exposed to poetry, Latin and music. The latter, however, became his passion. A vivid imagination and love for Irish actress Harriet Smithson helped fuel his affections and create music in a novel format, succinctly described as a “programme symphony”. It was Berlioz’s first significant work to be presented to the public.

The Symphonie fantastique had its premiere on 5 December 1830 in the aftermath of that year’s French Revolution. Those tumultuous times no doubt intensified the emotional profusions of this Berlioz work. Similarly Seiji Ozawa newly appointed as the BSO’s Music Director may have embarked on this recording in an attempt to impress patrons from the get-go.

The Berlioz idée fixe is discernible through Mr. Ozawa’s incisive dynamics. Each instrument is cleanly outlined and serves to capture Berlioz’s caprice. Ozawa’s tempos never lag or catapult out of control. Pacing permits ample space for the listener fully to absorb the music.

Many notable conductors have staked their interpretative claim to Symphonie fantastique. Ozawa is no exception. He immaculately peels back the layers of detailing in every bar, accentuating the value from each and every instrument. Berlioz’s flittering rhythmic changes are magnified with great care by Mr. Ozawa.

This Pentatone SA-CD Hybrid multichannel release is rich in sound quality which aids in heightening Berlioz’s hallucinatory inventions.

Christie Grimstad



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