- Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie, for soloists, chorus & orchestra ("monodrame lyrique"), H. 55 (Op. 14bis)
- Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ("Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties"), H.48 (Op. 14)
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's label, CSO Resound, is noted for its extraordinary sound quality and its exciting performances, many of which are among the finest it has ever offered on disc. This double CD of Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" and its intended sequel, "Lélio, ou le retour à la vie," is a bit of a rarity because they are infrequently paired, due to the different forces required for each. "Symphonie fantastique" is a five-movement programmatic symphony for orchestra, while "Lélio" is a melodramatic cantata for narrator, vocalists, chorus, two pianos, and orchestra, which makes mounting a performance of the two works together a bit daunting (quite aside from the fact that "Lélio" fell into neglect after the Romantic era, while the "Symphonie fantastique" has always been a hit). For this performance, Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in a rousing, if solidly mainstream, interpretation of the symphony on the first disc, and he is joined on the second disc by actor Gérard Depardieu, tenor Mario Zeffiri, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, in a performance that conveys the extremes of lyricism and bombast that are so characteristic of Berlioz. It helps to know French, though the texts are provided, and Depardieu's highly dramatic reading communicates the intensity of Berlioz's passionate expressions. But listeners will be delighted by the variety and inventiveness of the music, both of which argue convincingly for "Lélio"'s revival. Highly recommended for Berlioz devotees and collectors of CSO Resound releases.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lelio, Or The Return To Life, Berlioz’s visionary follow up to his most successful composition has never really gained a foot hold with audiences. It’s rarely performed this side of the Atlantic partly because of its unusual scoring and staging requirements, but mainly because the level of inspiration is simply not up to what we have come to expect from this composer. Despite this, the work has enjoyed a fair number of recordings over the years: Leibowitz, Dutoit, Martinon and Boulez, even a German language version. Now Maestro Muti and the CSO make their bid with this superb version drawn from a live concert. Soloists and chorus are excellent. Gerard Depardieu is an ideal narrator on a par with the great Jean-Louis Barrault in the classic 1967 Boulez led recording. There is clearly enough substance here to warrant an occasional listening. However, the real reason to acquire this set is the Symphonie Fantastique. It’s a powerful reading with all sections of the CSO in top form. Maestro Muti’s conception stresses dramatic tension and rhythmic fidelity but never at the expense of poetry or atmosphere. Does it ascend to the inner circle of classic recordings? In some ways, perhaps. But do hang on to your Munch, Beecham, Davis, Stokowski, Barbirolli, Paray and Bernstein recordings, each of which boasts unique interpretive insights. The sound pickup in both works is stunning in terms of clarity, presence and impact. The liner notes are well written and informative. Full texts are provided.