Marshalling the ophicleides
Charles Munch conducts Symphonie Fantastique -
'The Boston players revel among the cavorting witches with gleeful efficiency.'
Despite the advocacy of Colin Davis and David Cairns, or the local scholarly labours
that have shown the French how to produce a complete edition of one of their greatest
masters, I am not an out-and-out Berliozian. If Lélio is ever programmed
to follow the Symphonie Fantastique, I prefer an early bed. But the symphony
itself, whatever the case for the influence of opium or its decriminalisation, is a
production of staggering originality.
As Schumann wrote in 1835, when the only publication of the work was Liszt's
keyboard transcription: 'Genius must bring forth in freedom'. At the end of a lengthy
and deeply considered article, he hoped, nonetheless, that Berlioz might be less
eccentric in future. He thought the idée fixe that wanders into all
five movements had something flat about it, but accepted it as a haunting idea 'hard
to get rid of'. This is how the Boston flute and violins gave it fascinating shape
under Charles Munch in 1962
[listen -- track 1, 5:27-6:32].
Copyright © 18 February 2004
Robert Anderson, London UK