Philippe Jordan / Wiener Symphoniker

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Lélio

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As one of the most popular of all Romantic works, Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is regularly performed and recorded today, though Lélio, its sequel, has fared less well with modern audiences and is something of a rarity. In part, the program of the Artist's hallucinations and nightmares in the Symphonie fantastique is much more vivid and coherent than the diffuse material of the follow-up work, a monodrama which tells of his return to waking life, his contemplation and rejection of suicide, and the consolations of literature (particularly Shakespeare), and music. The orchestra alone is sufficient for Berlioz's strange and semi-autobiographical symphony, but the addition of a narrator, tenor, baritone, and chorus in Lélio seems to work against the music's programmatic flow and makes Berlioz's over-the-top story seem rather like overkill. For this two-disc album, Philippe Jordan and the Vienna Symphony present these works as a package, fulfilling Berlioz's intentions and leaving it to the listener to decide whether or not Lélio is essential. In any case, the performances are solid and well-recorded, and the almost conventional interpretation of the Symphonie fantastique prepares the listener for the oddness of Lélio, which is challenging enough by itself.

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