Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique / Janowski

Album cover art for upc 827949033865
Catalog: PTC5186338
Format: CD

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Marek Janowski

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique / King Lear Overture

10/10 review for Symphonie Fantastique on ClassicsToday
Marek Janowski's Symphonie fantastique doesn't have the frenetic excitement that a conductor like Munch brought to the work; rather, he is more of a modern-day Markevitch, analytical and pellucidly clear, but never clinical, and never at the expense of the music's character or emotional intensity. The first movement seldom has sounded so cogent, a function of the unusual fluidity that Janowski achieves by effortlessly natural phrasing and accentuation. Berlioz's second-movement ball floats by as if in a dream, which of course is exactly the point. The Scene in the Country is pure poetry, the distant thunder at the end scrupulously pictorial and vivid.
Janowski takes great care not to let the brass blare when playing forte in the March to the Scaffold, saving the real noise for the fortissimos. Simon Rattle attempted much the same thing but falls flat where Janowski succeeds brilliantly--not just because the Pittsburgh brass plays better, but because Janowski uses the lower volume in the melody to play up the grotesque accompaniments--the pedal tones in the trombones, and those insane bassoons. It's wonderful, as is a finale that, like the first movement, hangs together splendidly and rises to a thrilling climax without missing a single burp, screech, or nasty belch.
The King Lear Overture makes a substantial bonus, equally well done. Listen to those cellos and basses as they really dig into their parts! Superb sound in all formats, regular stereo and multichannel, completes this marvelous package.
--David Hurwitz

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