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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2013

…this may well be the most amazing performance and recording of the work I’ve ever heard.

What strikes me as special about Slatkin’s reading is the way in which he brings to the fore details of Berlioz’s orchestration that are clearly written in the score but which are usually felt rather than distinctly heard amidst the general proceedings.

It’s in the last movement…that Slatkin takes an interpretive twist that may cause you to wonder if he’s either using a newly discovered edition of the piece, or if you’ve never actually heard Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique before. But you’ll have to wait until the very end for it, because Slatkin’s “deviation” from standard practice won’t be heard in the novel orchestral effects, which is not to suggest that his “Witches’ Sabbath” doesn’t do full justice to Berlioz’s kink. No, the surprise comes in the grand dinning melee, where, beginning in measure 512, three trumpets and the first ophicleide (here played by tuba) thrice hammer out the same descending series of eighth notes. At this point, the entire orchestra is writhing in an orgy of such Satanic debauchery that all one usually hears is a chthonian commotion. But what Slatkin does made me sit bolt upright in my chair and exclaim, “What’s this? Is this the standard score?” For he has insured that those thunderous Judgment Day blasts from on high are heard above all else, crushing and burying in a pile of rubble Hell’s kitchen. The score is the standard edition, but it’s what Slatkin chooses to do with it that makes this not just another Symphonie fantastique, but one that’s really quite special. And with some 150 available versions, why, after all, even bother unless you have something new and different to say? Slatkin does.

…this Naxos release is an example of just how stunning a two-channel stereo recording can be. No matter how many Fantastiques you have in your collection, this is one you should not be without, and at Naxos’s budget price, I’d urge you to buy a dozen copies and save them for Christmas stocking stuffers for your friends. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review




John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, January 2013

…anyone buying this CD will be buying it for the Symphonie Fantastique. This is a natural, sophisticated, glowing performance captured in the finest sound I’ve ever heard given to the work. It’s one of the best versions now available and at bargain price it must not be overlooked. I struggle to think of a version that offers better playing. An absolute winner. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Lawrence Hansen
American Record Guide, January 2013

BERLIOZ, H.: Symphonie fantastique / Le corsaire (Lyon National Orchestra, Slatkin) 8.572886
BERLIOZ, H.: Symphonie fantastique / Le corsaire (Lyon National Orchestra, Slatkin) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0029

Slatkin gives us a solid, balanced, well-paced Symphonie Fantastique…Where some conductors see in the score a green light for all sorts of over-the-top shenanigans, Slatkin draws the listener’s attention to the beauty, nuance, and carefully wrought inner detail of the music.

The Big News here is that this recording has excellent sound—not showy, punchy, hi-fi store demo sound, but clean, balanced, warm sound that flatters the performance. The standard CD sounds better than some SACDs I’ve sampled.

…if you have a full AV surround system with HDMI connection from the Blu-ray player to the receiver, it’s probably worth the extra money to invest in the Blu-ray version of this release. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, October 2012

…this is quite simply one of the best performances of the Symphonic fantastique on disc. The orchestral playing is always precise, clear, perfectly balanced…The trombone pedals and the bass drum in the March to the scaffold are right in-your-face as Berlioz clearly intended—and we get all the repeats he wanted. The harps in the Ball scene sparkle and glitter and the notorious wind glissandi at the beginning of the last movement…smear their way across the page as the composer asks.

The disc opens with a brisk performance of the overture The corsair…very precise string playing in the difficult opening flourishes…The recording is clean, natural and enables us to hear everything. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, September 2012

The second movement describes a ball in which the young man catches a glimpse of his beloved…the conductor ensures the music itself sweeps and swirls in an appropriately questioning, probing manner.

Next, we come to the scene in the country, a slow Adagio…the music shifts into a left sudden turn, which Slatkin negotiates smoothly…

Then we come to the final two movements that audiophiles so adore because they burst over with so much busy, vigorous energy.

Besides the alternative cornet movement, the coupling on the disc is Berlioz’s Overture to Le Corsaire. Here…Slatkin’s reading sounds admirably restrained and unaffected, with a dashing élan.

Naxos recorded the music in 2011 at the Auditorium de Lyon, France, to generally good effect. The sound is typical of much of Naxos’s work, perfectly adequate…The all-important midrange is refined and natural, if not entirely transparent. The high and low ends appear well enough represented… © 2012 Classical Candor Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2012

BERLIOZ, H.: Symphonie fantastique / Le corsaire (Lyon National Orchestra, Slatkin) 8.572886
BERLIOZ, H.: Symphonie fantastique / Le corsaire (Lyon National Orchestra, Slatkin) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0029

Third time lucky, and Naxos now have a performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique that fits comfortably into the high quality of their catalogue. It has the immediate benefit of being played by a French orchestra at the disposal of a conductor, Leonard Slatkin, who is used to working with the brilliance of American ensembles. Add the two together and we have a performance that highlights the fantastic elements, but avoids the more garish colours we find in many recordings. Tempos are never rushed, Slatkin allowing the core angles to linger over his shepherd pipings in the third movement, and does not have the condemned running to the scaffold, as we hear in many recorded versions. He also takes the repeat of the opening section of the march. I equally enjoy the subtlety in his use of instruments, the timpanists creating such a real sound of thunder in the third movement, you suspect the real thing has been added. Slatkin is ever mindful of Berlioz copious dynamic markings built on pianissimo that are of a magical quality. Yet I suppose most audiences look to the work’s purple patches and Slatkin is never found wanting, while at the same time retaining sufficient drama until the finale with its clamorous bells in the big ending the work calls for. The disc adds a novelty with an additional track that reprises the second movement, Un bal, with the cornet solo Berlioz added after the first performance, probably to please a famous cornet player of the day. Having been brought up in the concert hall and on disc with Sir Thomas Beecham’s swaggering account of Le corsaire, I equally warmed to Slatkin’s more classical and restrained approach, excellently played by the Lyon orchestra. Sound in both formats is outstanding, though Blu-ray adds that extra inner clarity and open texture that makes it worth the extra outlay if you have top of the range equipment. © 2012 David’s Review Corner



Greg Harvey
Classicalsource.com, September 2012

A spirited Le corsaire leads off this impressive Berlioz collection from Lyon, an admirable debut disc from the excellent Orchestre National of that city and its recently appointed music director, Leonard Slatkin. From the get-go, Slatkin leads a performance of this overture that mixes discipline, spontaneity, tenderness and drive, with detail and expression never compromised; the coda is a fine blaze of sound captured in what appears to be a spacious, warm and vivid concert hall. As well as French polish, the timbres that radiate from the Lyon musicians are welcome for being recognisable in geographical terms: Slatkin has always encouraged orchestras to sport their national identities. © 2012 Classicalsource.com Read complete review



Mark Pullinger
International Record Review, September 2012

‘The playing is remarkably refined, from an orchestra which has a strong tradition in Berlioz. String playing is cultured, catching the yearning in the first movement and an appropriate glassy quality in the finale.’ © 2012 International Record Review






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