In the history of recording, there have been literally dozens and dozens of recordings of Hector Berlioz's monstrous masterpiece "Symphonie Fantastique", a work that is arguably the first musical masterpiece of terror. Given such a crowded field, what can another recording offer today?
Judging by the performance given here on Naxos by Yoav Talmi and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, plenty! With the recording quality as high as it is, and the recording itself very well priced, this version of Berlioz's nightmarish masterpiece has much to show, including the piece de resistance, the "Witches Sabbath" in the fifth movement, with the use of the ancient chant "Dies Irae" ringing out in the trombones (a chant that would find its way into the music of such chilling movies as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE SHINING, and POLTERGEIST).
For me, there have been only two recordings of this much-covered masterpiece that have really captured Berlioz's disturbing visions: the 1959 recording by the Detroit Symphony under Paul Paray (on Mercury Living Presence); and Sir Colin Davis' explosive 1974 recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (on Philips). But this one by the SDSO and Talmi is very much up there in such lofty company. And given this orchestra/conductor combination's other Berlioz recordings in recent years, one cannot go wrong with this one.