on June 17, 2004
Davis's Concertgebouw recording of this great work (not to be confused with his earlier, less successful one with London Symphony and on the same label) is certainly one of the better ones. As a straightforward account, it works rather well, and would be my first choice, were it not for at least a half dozen other performances which do a great job of making the hair on my neck stand at attention. These include Andre Previn with the Royal Philharmonic (RPO Records), Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra (EMI), Claudio Abbado with the Chicago Symphony (DG), Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony (RCA), Sir Thomas Beecham and the French National Radio Orchestra (EMI), and John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (Philips).
Davis, good as he is, is just a little underpowered, although he does give us some fine brio in the finale. The playing of the Concertgebouw Orchestra is near flawless, and the sound is more detailed when compared to other Concertgebouw recordings with Bernard Haitink conducting.
Definitely one to own, if your collection is large enough for a half-dozen versions.
on September 15, 2000
Sir Colin Davis, one of the best Berlioz specialists of today, proves himself worthy of this title by giving us firm, first-class and solid versions of the composer's output. This record of the Symphonie Fantastique is a prime example, in which Davis presents a performance that deserves to be praised enthusiastically and not reproached harshly. Through the whole performance, Davis injects the right amount of adreanaline, and the Concertgebouw orchestra responds well to his touch, even though he is a British conductor, and the Philips (now Decca) recording is first-class, with the right balance and atmosphere. From the opening Reveries of the work, one is totally spellbound by the music-making, and one can't help but be suspended on the edge of their seats. The entire first movement is given blood and thrust, and the hysteria that the imaginary artist experiences is well-brought out here, as well as the innocence of the idee fixe. The Ball sequence that follows is well-presented in the manner of true blue Viennese waltzes, and the music really sways like never before. However, the tense excitement comes to an abrupt halt as the Scene in the Country sets in, with a true dream-like quality brought about by the shimmering sounds of the orchestra. But in the last two sections, the March to the Scaffold and the Dream of a Sabbath Night, the blood races faster than ever before because of the sharp, menacing sounds, with a fierry and menacing March and a macabre Dream, replete with Dies irae. Overall, I can safely say that Davis really gives one of the world's best Fantastique records, and that this is the one to buy if you are looking for a first-class modern stereo performance.