Rolf Reuter

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

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The budget CDs released by Berlin Classics may have an appearance of mediocrity due to their low price, unimpressive artwork, and lack of artist credits on the front cover, but many of this label's titles deserve serious consideration for the music, which in many cases is played with aplomb. A case in point is this fine recording of the Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz performed by Rolf Reuter and the Berlin Comic Opera Orchestra in 1990. Digitally recorded and mixed for clear, evenly balanced sound, the performance is also remarkable for its balance of musical elements, from the smooth to the harsh, the subtle to the bombastic, and the beautiful to the grotesque -- all essential aspects of Berlioz's hallucinatory program. If Reuter allows perhaps too much languor in the slow sections, he more than makes up for it in the exciting climaxes of the Allegros; and if his tempos are a little on the deliberate side, the details that can be heard more than justify his choices. Reuter may not have delivered the greatest recorded performance of this archetypal Romantic work, but this is still a competent and often exciting version that will please most listeners, particularly in the hair-raising "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath," undoubtedly the highpoint of this performance.

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