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Cat. No. CHSA 5118 Price: 11.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHSA 5118 - Berlioz: Overtures
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Available From: 01 February 2013
Berlioz: Overtures
The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis here perform seven dazzling orchestral overtures by Hector Berlioz, a composer who excelled in blending literary and musical elements into highly energetic and personal creations. 
 
The overtures are widely varied in mood, as are the operas from which they were drawn. Berlioz wrote his first large-scale instrumental composition, the Overture to Les Francs-juges, in 1826, the year in which he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire. Even though the opera itself was never performed, Berlioz remained proudly affectionate of the overture, which was played all over Germany and Holland in its early days. His second opera, Benvenuto Cellini, followed in 1838; its music gave rise both to the opera’s overture and to the concert overture Le Carnaval romain which depicts its subject in brilliant colour through breathtakingly vibrant orchestration. 
 
The comic opera Béatrice et Bénédict took its inspiration from Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. The overture draws on an intense solo scene for Béatrice and adds elements of the cheerful banter that make up the story of the title characters’ playful courtship. 
 
When Berlioz visited the Hungarian capital Pest in 1846, it was suggested to him that one way of winning the hearts of the audiences there would be to make an arrangement of the beloved Rákóczy March, which up until that point had been known only as a piano piece. Berlioz agreed, and on the very night before he left for Pest, he put together his own orchestral version of the piece. It was a resounding success when performed at his first concert, to the extent that Berlioz promptly included it in the large work on which he was working at the time: La Damnation de Faust. 
 
Le Roi Lear, Le Corsaire, and Waverley have one thing in common: all are independent concert pieces that have been given the title overture as in many respects they do resemble opera overtures – but none is in actual fact connected to an opera. The composer here took his inspiration from literary works. Le Roi Lear, for instance, is a remarkable tone portrait of Shakespeare’s deranged king, full of energy and anger, while Le Corsaire may be loosely based on Byron’s The Corsair. Berlioz based Waverley on a novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott, and the score bears a quotation in English: ‘Dreams of love and Lady’s charms, give place to honour and to arms.’ The contrast expressed so well in this simple quotation is equally evident in the music itself. Here the ‘dreams of love’ unfold in a long cello melody, which is repeated with richer orchestrations, before leading into the vigorous musical depiction of ‘honour and arms’. 
 
Reviews

"...It starts with a bang – the whirlwind intro to Le Corsaire – and finishes with the great rolling finale to Benvenuto Cellini. On the way it takes in two stalwarts in Les Francs-Juges and Le Carnaval Romaine, the Shakespearean sweep of Le Roi Lear, the Scottish political romance of Waverly and the comic interplay of Beatrice and Benedict. Davis controls all of this with a master’s touch and the orchestra responds in kind. The SACD recording compares favourably with older standbys like Colin Davis’s Staatskapelle Dresden performances and Adrian Boult’s 1950s versions with the LPO."  ****
Steve Moffatt - Limelightmusic.com - 29 August 2013

“...this Berlioz disc is a winner. Andrew Davis brings out the best in them, and they provide a collection of Berlioz overtures that can stand comparison with any in the catalogue, even the - previously unrivalled - collections from the late Sir Colin Davis...”
 
Simon Thompson – MusicWeb-International.com – May 2013
 

                         CD TIPP
Music *****  (Excellent)       Sound ***** (Excellent)
afri - Fono Forum magazine - July 2013

                   ***** - Exceptional 
Riccardo Cassani - Musica magazine - May 2013

           *****
Riccardo Cassani - Classica magazine - May 2013

 “...Very highly recommended”

Ivan March – BBC Music magazine – May 2013

                         Multichannel Disc of the Month

“A brilliant hi-res surround recording of the seven Berlioz Overtures.”    *****
 
John Sunier – AudiophileAudition.com – 27 March 2013

 "...enjoyably dynamic – as is everything on this extremely attractive collection."

 
Barry Forshaw - CDChoice.co.uk - 11 February 2013

                  Performance ****      Recording *****
“... a vivid , large-scale recording that brings out Berlioz’s detail really clearly, of which the excellent Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra players make a great deal. I personally feel the Berlioz’s textures are most truly rendered by instruments of his time, in the brass especially, but the playing here is satisfyingly mellow and vibrant, with warm strings and sturdy woodwind, yet also refreshing and translucent. This is aided by Andrew Davis’s tempos, fairly spacious and unforced but never slack, and now and then sizzling... a welcome release.”
 
Michael Scott Rohan – BBC Music magazine – April 2013

"...Sir Andrew Davis conducts these colourful and inventive scores with panache and he secures colourful, rhythmically precise performances from the Norwegian orchestra which plays with zest throughout the programme. The Chandos recording is up to the usual high standards of the house - I listened to this hybrid SACD as a CD - and Hugh Macdonald’s succinct notes are ideal. If you’re looking for a set of Berlioz overtures - a highly desirable addition to any collection - then this disc has very strong claims on your attention."
 
John Quinn - MusicWeb-International.com - 4 March 2013

“ ... [Davis] on fine form here with the Bergen Philharmonic. The opening to the Corsaire holds no terrors for them ... The lesser-known overtures reveal their virtues well.  Davis, abetted by an excellent recording, responds vividly to Berlioz’s pioneering orchestral textures...”
 
John Warrack – International Record Review – February 2013

 

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