Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op 14; Varèse: Ionisation

Reviewed on Mon 26 May, 2014

There are plenty of recordings of the Symphonie fantastique to choose from. Why this one? Well, Mariss Jansons is a great musician and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra one of the world’s finest. From the very opening we are already held – the spell is working. Not a single bar goes for nothing, musicality is all. The devil is in the detail of Berlioz’s complex orchestration, of course, and Jansons allows us to hear everything. Not that this is a myopic reading – not at all, in fact. What impresses is Jansons’s ability to keep his eye on the horizon, to see the work as a whole. That’s why this performance is so rewarding musically. The generous ‘live’ recorded sound helps, offering real depth of field in an airy but not over-reverberant acoustic. Still, don’t forget Charles Munch (RCA) and Colin Davis (Philips & LSO Live). The coupling of Varèse's Ionisation is a stroke of genius – Berlioz would have freaked out!
–John Kehoe