Some of Hector Berlioz' most colorful music can be found in his concert overtures, which were composed between 1826 and 1851 and which represent varied aspects of his grandiose approach to Romantic ideas. All of these works have programmatic connections to literature (William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron were favorites of the composer), or historic figures (Benvenuto Cellini, Rob Roy MacGregor, and Jean Lafitte), but Berlioz' sources for inspiration came from multiple directions, as often as not tangential to his subjects, and his overtures actually seem more generalized and abstract than explicitly narrative. Even so, there are always strong dramatic contrasts that create tremendous excitement, and the writing for the orchestra is always striking and innovative, bearing evidence that Berlioz truly was the father of modern orchestration. These lively performances by Sylvain Cambreling and the SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg paint vivid pictures of high adventure and derring-do, and the recording captures the ensemble's distinctive brass and woodwind timbres with extraordinary sharpness and fidelity. Newcomers to Berlioz will find these pieces ideal for first time exposure, and enjoy the music without having to follow elaborate story-lines, though the background of each overture is summarized in the helpful liner notes.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson