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Berlioz, Hector - Symphonie Fantastique (1969) [DVD]
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The conductor Sergiu Celibidache was a legend in his own lifetime, mesmerising orchestras with his intensity and brilliance, both in rehearsals and in performances – which were always conducted from memory. In this recording, he takes on Berlioz's passionate autobiographical monument to obsessive and unrequited love. The Celibidache Symphonic Series celebrates the historic release on DVD of rare footage of the few performances ever recorded for television. Celibidache conducting Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI in this 1969 Turin recording. RAI's historic black and white master is faithfully restored for this release, with digitally re-mastered 2-track mono.
"His intense, finely balanced and deeply felt interpretations made him one of the greatest names in twentieth century orchestral conducting. Above all, he was a superb technician." (All Music Guide)
"1969 is long enough ago in the history of sound and vision to feel primitive compared to today's technology, but Opus Arte has buffed up this black-and-white Italian TV original to some purpose. As has Maestro Celibidache Turin's RAI orchestra, whose every section shows off the care of his characteristically detailed rehearsal. It translates into a reading whose tempi and dynamics have been tailored with the care of a wonderful listener to the band and the hall at hand...A stylish, detailed note by Misha Donat and sensitive work by RAI's camera director - following the score's high-points without indulging in visual ping-pong - add to the value of a release that promises to be the first of a series." (Gramophone)
"Those who recall the conductor's eccentricities in his later years will be surprised by the sobriety and dedication exhibited here. This is a very straightforward account of Berlioz's masterpiece and affords a valuable glimpse of Celibidache's fine muscianship. The camerawork is extremely discreet." (The Penguin Guide)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI; Sergiu Celibidache
Catalogue Number: OA0977D
Date of Performance: 1969
Running Time: 58 minutes
Sound: LPCM Mono
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Label: Opus Arte
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Marilyn Horne in repertoire she never recorded commercially.
Although she seems to take the songs down lower than anyone else and
seems to refer to the score quite often, it is a very eloquent
performance, better in the three more reflective songs than in the
1st,2nd and 6th where Crespin is unequaled. Although already a bit
plump, Horne looks charming and the voice is all that it later
Both of these are in black and white and in the case of the
Munch so fuzzy that unless someone told you , you wouldn't know he
was conducting. The sound is OK but with this picture, you might
as well buy an audio only recording.
Back to the interpretation: First, Celibidache gets remarkably varied dynamics from the orchestra and actually achieves fairly good balance even considering that the relatively small string complement is overbalanced by the quadruple winds, and the brass are kept in reasonable check but still manage to be thrilling in the climaxes. Tempi are generally fairly restrained. 'Rêveries - Passions' is exquisitely painted; the orchestra, largely by subtle and generally soft dynamics, characterize the poet's dreams of his beloved. 'Un bal' depicts the poet's intercurrent obsessions with the inamorata as he goes about his daily routine. 'Scène aux champs' is delicately pictured and there is some gorgeous wind playing, not least by the cor anglais. Celi resists the temptation to make the 'Marche au supplice' the (simply) brilliant orchestral showpiece it is often made to be at least partly by keeping a steady slower than usual treading pace, which underlines its serious meaning -- a doleful procession in which the poet is dragged to the scaffold, making all the more horrific the poet's vivid hallucinations -- terror rather than grotesquerie. In the ghostly 'Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat' Celi keeps the initial tempi rather restrained, making the final accelerando all the more exciting. (A pity the tubular bells in this final section are a hair under pitch.)
One could only wish that Celibidache had had a better orchestra as well as more modern sound and video. But as he was not filmed in concert all that much (as far as I know, at any rate), it is valuable to see him conducting and to have some idea of his conception of this cornerstone of Romantic orchestral literature. I suspect, though, this DVD will be primarily for hardcore Celibidache admirers and for students of conducting.
Sound: digitally remastered two-track mono; Picture: Black & White, 4:3 format; All regions; TT:58 mins.