James Ehnes / Andrew Davis / Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Berlioz: Harold en Italie; Rob-Roy; Rêverie et Caprice

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Released in 2015, this hybrid SACD by Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is a sonic showcase of three works by Hector Berlioz, the archetypal Romantic composer and the father of modern orchestration. The Intrata di Rob-Roy Mac Gregor is a programmatic overture based on the novel by Walter Scott, and its vigorous music creates a sense of heroic adventure that is appealing; even though the work was a failure at its 1833 premiere, it remains in the symphonic repertoire. This is followed by the Rêverie et caprice for violin and orchestra, which features the violin in an adaptation of the soprano aria, "Ah! que l'amour une fois dans le coeur," from the failed opera, Benventuro Cellini. Just as Berlioz recycled that aria, he salvaged two themes from Rob-Roy for his symphony for viola and orchestra, Harold en Italie, which was based on Lord Byron's poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. James Ehnes performs the solos in the Rêverie et caprice and Harold en Italie with lyrical expressiveness and a sweet tone that works well with the tender and passionate moods in both works. The orchestra plays with great energy and a full sound, though at no time is Ehnes' playing overwhelmed, least of all in the subdued passages of Harold. Chandos' recording is quite sensitive to the finest details, so everything is fully audible in the fairly resonant acoustics.

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