Carlos Païta / London Symphony Orchestra

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

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Carlos Païta and the London Symphony Orchestra recorded Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique in 1978, and this performance won the Grand Prix du Disque, making it something of a collector's item, especially since its availability has been hit or miss over the years. This 2015 Lodia reissue returns it to Païta's catalog and reveals what a barnburner it was, with extremely fast tempos, volatile dynamics, and breathless phrasing, and it creates a feeling of hysteria that is not at all inappropriate to this work's unhinged program. Païta clearly gave thought to the violent emotions and homicidal impulses of the symphony's protagonist, and he whips the LSO into an explosive performance that doesn't run wild but gallops almost out of control. But the orchestra never quite loses its place, and the frenzy is only pushed as far as the music can bear it. To be sure, the playing is never sloppy, and even though Païta's idea of an Allegro is more like everyone else's Presto, this orchestra always keeps up, whether it's in the whirling hallucination of Un bal, the quick step of the Marche au supplice, or the swirling orgy of the finale, Songe d'une nuit de Sabbat. This may not be everyone's idea of how to play Symphonie fantastique, but it will certainly wake up everyone who hears it.

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