Seiji Ozawa / Boston Symphony Orchestra

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

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In classical music, multichannel recording is state-of-the-art reproduction, and audiophiles routinely seek out the finest recordings on hybrid SACD. Among those discs are some important discoveries, such as some quadraphonic recordings from the 1970s which are being remastered and reissued by PentaTone, preserving exciting performances from that brief period when four-channel sound was all the rage. Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra made this quadraphonic recording of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique in 1973, and the audio is remarkably vivid and almost palpable in its closeness. Apart from Ozawa's fairly conventional interpretation, which is in keeping with most mid-20th century performances of this piece, and purely in terms of its sound quality, one would be hard pressed to tell this rendition from one made yesterday, so crisp and clear are the details and so credible the musicians' presence. Because Symphonie fantastique has undergone much rethinking in the historically informed practices camp, attitudes among many listeners are starting to favor versions on period instruments that offer early 19th century sonorities. Yet traditionalists who crave the big, modern symphonic approach will be overjoyed to hear this marvelous performance in the sound format in which it was intended to be heard.

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