André Previn

Berlioz: Requiem; Symphonie Fantastique

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Two of Hector Berlioz's most spectacular works are brought together on this EMI twofer, the Requiem (Grande Messe des morts) and the Symphonie fantastique; the masterful performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by André Previn, are durable offerings from EMI's extensive catalog. Dating back to 1980 and 1975, respectively, the recordings still possess many attractive qualities, such as fine clarity of details, richness of tone, great spatial depth, a highly resonant ambience, and a marvelous dynamic range that is quite impressive in the Symphonie fantastique, but absolutely breathtaking in the Requiem. The audio highpoint comes in the apocalyptic Tuba mirum, where the four brass bands stationed around the Walthamstow Town Hall unleash fanfares that ricochet and reverberate at a volume much louder than anything else in this set. But to assume that these works by the master showman Berlioz are all ear-splitting and bombastic is to misunderstand his music, for much of the Requiem's mood is quiet, lyrical, and reflective, and for all of the Symphonie fantastique's bizarre program and novel effects, it has many moments of sublime loveliness that are captured in this performance. Previn is careful to make every note audible, and his attention to even the smallest figuration pays dividends in both recordings. This package is recommended for anyone exploring Berlioz, whether newcomer or experienced listener.

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