Andrew Davis / Toronto Mendelssohn Choir / Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Fantasie sur la Tempète de Shakespeare

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Sir Andrew Davis was the music director of the Toronto Symphony from 1975 to 1988, and he has maintained strong ties with the group displayed here, even though the players in the main are not the ones he conducted back then. You might not think the world needs another reading of the Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14, but Davis' ease with the orchestra enables him to pull off a number of unusual orchestral effects. The real find here is the Fantaisie sur La Tempète de Shakespeare (Fantasy on Shakespeare's The Tempest), which is a symphonic poem movement, not incidental music. It is the last movement of Lélio, which was the immediate successor to the Symphonie Fantastique but is much less often performed. It is a charming collection of delicate orchestral displays complete with a choir singing words from The Tempest, or something like them, in Italian (Berlioz, who had just won the Prix de Rome, was in an Italian phase). The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, which has worked often with both Davis and the Toronto Symphony, achieves special grace here, and this little performance is worth the price of admission. The Symphonie Fantastique itself is more straightforward but has distinctive touches, including bell strokes in the "Dies irae" that will make you sit up and take notice, if not severely stress your expensive speakers. The Torontonians generally play well throughout, although the return of the idée fixe in the waltz movement (sample this) comes off more as an intrusion than as the desired fleeting thought. A fine product of Sir Andrew's old age.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Fantaisie sur la Temête de Shakespeare for Chorus, Orchestra, and Piano Four Hands
1 03:07
2 02:29
3 06:51
4 02:06
Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
5 15:34
6 06:33
7 16:06
8 06:48
9 10:28
blue highlight denotes track pick