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Scriabin: Poem of Ecstasy, Op

New Philharmonia Orchestra; Le Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 22.47 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Le Poème de l'extase (Poem of Ecstasy), symphony [No. 4] in C major, Op. 54
2. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Visions and passions
3. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Un bal: Valse, Allegro non t
4. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Scene au champ, Adagio
5. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Marche au supplice, Allegro
6. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ('Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties'), H.48 (Op. 14): Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat
7. Leopold Stokowski in conversation with Deryck Cooke (Interview)

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best performance of the Symphonie Fantastique Nov. 17 2003
Format:Audio CD
With Berlioz making a huge hit this last year, invariably the question arises over the best recording of the Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz's first great work and certainly his most famous. The greatest challenges to any conductor with this work is contending with the tremendous variety of sound and dynamics--the temptation being either to reduce the effects to emphasize the extraordinary structure, or explode into a chaotic but colorful mess of sound. Of the many recordings I've listened to of this work (including Colin Davis, Karajan, and Ozawa) this one is the greatest. Stokowski tends to be looked at as a mere entertainer, not a true intellectual artist capable of tremendous musical endeavors--hopefully this recording will shatter those ridiculous ideas (although the very interesting, and even bizarre interview at the end of the disc is a great indicator of how the public has come to understand Stokowski as an eccentric--it certainly ranks with Glenn Gould as one of the more colorful interviews). From beginning to end the recording is filled with intensity and passion--two absolutely vital qualities to the performance of the music. The first three movements are severally tempered, and only Stokowski manages to make that emotional compression carry the inherent weight that comes from constricting such vital material. With the execution march the music explodes, and finds the wonderfully dark climax with the Dies Irae in the Witch's Sabbath--notice how he varies the tempo at the end, and yet it works absolutely perfectly. I cannot emphasize enough how powerful of a recording this is--and the BBC group has done a wonderful job with the quality of sound. Certainly one of the finest recordings availible.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best performance of the Symphonie Fantastique Nov. 17 2003
By M. Mclain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
With Berlioz making a huge hit this last year, invariably the question arises over the best recording of the Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz's first great work and certainly his most famous. The greatest challenges to any conductor with this work is contending with the tremendous variety of sound and dynamics--the temptation being either to reduce the effects to emphasize the extraordinary structure, or explode into a chaotic but colorful mess of sound. Of the many recordings I've listened to of this work (including Colin Davis, Karajan, and Ozawa) this one is the greatest. Stokowski tends to be looked at as a mere entertainer, not a true intellectual artist capable of tremendous musical endeavors--hopefully this recording will shatter those ridiculous ideas (although the very interesting, and even bizarre interview at the end of the disc is a great indicator of how the public has come to understand Stokowski as an eccentric--it certainly ranks with Glenn Gould as one of the more colorful interviews). From beginning to end the recording is filled with intensity and passion--two absolutely vital qualities to the performance of the music. The first three movements are severally tempered, and only Stokowski manages to make that emotional compression carry the inherent weight that comes from constricting such vital material. With the execution march the music explodes, and finds the wonderfully dark climax with the Dies Irae in the Witch's Sabbath--notice how he varies the tempo at the end, and yet it works absolutely perfectly. I cannot emphasize enough how powerful of a recording this is--and the BBC group has done a wonderful job with the quality of sound. Certainly one of the finest recordings availible.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two very strong performances of colorful scores that suit Stokowski perfectly Aug. 8 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Apparently Stokowski hadn't conducted the Symphonie fantastique since 1914 (!) when he returned to it in 1968 for this concert version in London that led to a Decca Phase 4 recording. I found that recording cloyingly gorgeous, so it was intriguing to hear what the work would sound like without engineering gimmickry. The opening work, Scriabin's Poeme d'Extase, also appeared in a Phase 4 version, but with the Czech Phil., and here the absence of lurid Technicolor of the kind that Phase 4 perfected (if that's the right word) is a huge benefit. The BBC's lovely stereo rendering captures a great deal of transparent detail and nuanced playing; we aren't swamped in hyper-romantic sludge, as is so often the case with this work. I could easily live with this thrilling Stokowski reading and no other.

I'll admit to creeping ennui with the 'Symphonie fantastique,' and despite its massive discography, one reading each by Bernstein, Munch, and colin Davis would last me a lifetime. But how can anyone pass up Stokowski? the recorded sound is as transparent and appealing as in the Scriabin, and the conductor comes alive from the first measures, which so often sound tentative and mincing. The New Philharmonia, after two decades under Karajan and Klemperer (as simply the Philharmonia) were a superb orchestra, ready to respond with refined, precise, highly musical playing from all sections. It certainly shows here; you'd never guess that they were riding a war horse to the paddock. In great age it's hard to tell how much of an orchestra's response comes from the conductor and how much is the musicians doing the carrying. In this case, I suspect that the alive, joyous feeling that emanates is due to Stokowski - he had that effect on every orchestra he conducted.

I realize that I'm shortchanging on details of interpretation, but it's the buoyant spirit of this performance that is so striking. Stokowski sees the score as a romp, not a set of eerie hallucinations. His pacing is always forward-moving, with no patience for fussy nuance. In that sense, this reading is the anti-Boulez. After a vigorous, direct first movement, Un bal is unusually fast and exciting (no cornets, by the way). At 16 min. the Scene aux champs is a genuine Adagio but not dawdled over. Stokowski placed the oboe which echoes the English horn offstage, so it's quite faint as an unseen presence rather than a partner in musical ping pong. I loved the effect, but even better is the conductor's supple phrasing of the long line.

The march to the scaffold begins very fast - I think the musicians were caught off guard, to judge by the scrappy ensemble - and it continues fast. In old age Stokowski sometimes exaggerated his allegros, as if to prove that he hadn't lost his energy. As an exciting one-off it works, but this music asks for more weight, I think. For me, the witches' Sabbath finale is where I'd like to walk out earl; its marvelous orchestral effects long ago wore out. Stokowski must feel the same way, because he pushes the pacing and indulges in no exaggeration of eeriness whatever. Not everyone will want the music played this straight, and the woodwinds are placed a bit too far back for their key solos. The sudden slow down for the tuba's Dies Irae is marginally a mistake. Still, the overall effect is thrilling and direct, like the performance as a whole.

In the end, even though I had few expectations, I wound up feeling that this was one of BBC Legends' strongest Stokowski installments and by far his best recording of both works.
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