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Harold in Italy


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1. Les Francs-Juges: Op. 3: Overture
2. Rêverie et Caprice, Op. 8: Romance for Violin and Orchestra
3. Harold in Italy, Op. 16: 1: Adagio
4. Harold in Italy, Op. 16: 2: Allegrtto
5. Harold in Italy, Op. 16: 3: Allegro assai
6. Harold in Italy, Op. 16: 4: Allegro frenetico

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Elegant recordings of lesser-known Berlioz works Dec 2 2004
By Matteo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
When these recordings were made back in the mid 1990's, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra was an excellent and vastly underrated ensemble in peak form. Bankruptcy forced a reorganization of the orchestra--one of the many testaments to this country's lack of appreciation for the fine and performing arts. Luckily the ensemble is playing again these days (known simply as the San Diego Symphony) though no longer under Yoav Talmi.

In these recordings, the orchestra works elegantly with the multi-layered orchestration that makes Berlioz so endlessly fascinating. It may take a couple of hearings in order to absorb all that Berlioz offers, and this disc definitely deserves to be heard more than once.

The good ol' fashioned overture to "Les Francs-Juges" may not live up to the more mature works of Berlioz that we've become used to, but it's nothing to dismiss either. The opening string passage is played with amazing delicacy and lightness of touch. The SDSO string section's wonderful work makes one wish this ensemble had recorded the orchestral works of Debussy or Ravel. Overall, Talmi paces the overture well. And while the energetic passages are handled well, I kept wanting a little more "oomph" to contrast with the quieter moments.

In the "Reverie et Caprice", the solo effort of SDSO concertmaster Igor Gruppman is delightful. Both orchestra and soloist aquite themselves nicely. Gruppman's sure hand as well as his lush tone and vibrato serve him well in Berlioz, a composer who seems to call for both grace and robustness.

Perhaps one of the quirkiest symphonies ever written, "Harold en Italie" is programmatic music at it's, well, most programmatic. Talmi and the SDSO, along with violist Rivka Golani, give us an elegant and technically masterful reading. Again, perhaps a little more Italianate warmth may have been in order--to match the story's Italian setting if nothing else.

To echo other comments on this conductor, Talmi's sense of pacing and his overall feel for Berlioz are first-rate. He elicits confident contributions from his orchestra and the effect is flawless execution.

This disc is recommendable for the genius of Berlioz and to hear an orchestra dispatch his music with finesse. Even though I would have wished for a little more fire in places, these recording are some of the finest in the French repertoire that I've heard on disc. Talmi and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra bring technical precision and clean, elegant sound to these works.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A refreshingly light, unpretentious Harold in Italy April 29 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It's hard to overpriase a CD that rejuvenates a piece for you, as this Talmi-led Harold in Italy did for me. Talmi is a proven Berlioz specialist, and where Munch was frenetic and reckless and Colin Davis romantic but contained, Talmi stands out as an elegant, quick-witted interpreter who relies on a light touch and mercurial rhythms. He and the Naxos engineers have made an intelligent decision in placing the solo viola back from the microphones rather than pretending that this soft-voiced, recessive instrument is larger than life. Here the viola isn't treated as a virtuoso or even a star but first among equals, blending sweetly into the overall orchestral texture.

Rivka Golani's viola playing is violin-like; she goes for sweet tone and lyricism, downplaying the instrument's melancholy side and thus making Byron's hero more upbeat than usual. Talmi is in full accord; the orchestral part isn't ponderous or overstated. I often felt I was in the world of the Queen Mab Scherzo, a refreshing change. So much so that I became a convert to a piece I've always found a little lugubrious and over long.

There are more riveting accounts of the work (e.g., William Primrose's historic recordings under Beecham and Koussevitzky) but few that are this buoyant. The fillers, an alert, vivacious Francs-Juges Over. and an early rarity, the Reverie and Caprice for violin and orchestra, come off very well, too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Elegant, refined, slightly too restrained performances May 16 2014
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
An alluring programme here from the now sadly defunct San Diego Symphony Orchestra who recorded four successful CDs of Berlioz's orchestral music for Naxos.

The youthful "Les Francs-Juges" overture from a failed opera is splendidly robust and characterful, the mournful theme for the clarinets and flutes playing simultaneously in minor thirds contrasting tellingly with the thunderous brass and raucous strings. Then we have a complete change of mood to the languorous "Rêverie et caprice", dreamily and rhapsodically played by the orchestra's concertmaster, Igor Gruppman.

Of course the main interest centres on "Harold in Italy", which here receives a brooding, dark-hued account without histrionics. Renowned violist Rivka Golani is lyrical and refined, to my ears a little short on élan. The March of the Pilgrims is similarly lyrical and lilting, the arpeggios played near the bridge of the viola strangely haunting. The Serenade is all serenity with some lovely playing from the cor anglais. The Allegro finale is suitably "frenetico" without the orchestra exactly being let off the leash in the way Munch releases the Boston Symphony in his celebrated and considerably more driven version.

The sound picture is perfect: there is air and space around the instruments suggestive of a mountainous environment and the viola is not unduly inflated yet still completely audible.

My favourite versions remain Primrose with Munch and de Pasquale with Ormandy. Bashmet with Inbal is also very fine but, like this recording, a little too refined for my taste.
Five Stars Aug. 25 2014
By toothfairy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I know the music and I just wanted to own it.


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