02_berlioz_seguinBerlioz - Symphonie Fantastique; Cléopâtre
Anna Caterina Antonacci; Rottendam Philharmonic Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Can you think of a large-scale work that embodies the spirit of French early Romanticism better than Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique? Completed in 1830, the symphony marked the 27-year-old composer’s first major success, hailed as truly revolutionary both in size and in concept. And who better to undertake such a monument than supernova conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the Rotterdam Philharmonic on this BIS label SACD? Nézet-Séguin’s career has catapulted to stratospheric heights in a very short time. After studying in his native Montréal, he made his European debut in 2004, and within four years had succeeded Valery Gergiev as Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He was recently named Music Director Designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra commencing in the 2012-13 season.

From the opening notes – a series of repeated Gs - the listener senses something magical about this performance. Nézet-Séguin approaches the music with a deep-rooted sensitivity, carefully shaping it at all times, and easily capturing the multi-faceted moods contained within. The orchestra – particularly the winds and strings – respond with a warm and resonant sound.

The second movement Valse is light and elegant, while the fourth movement, the March to the Scaffold is given the dramatic intensity it deserves. The finale - the Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath, in which the hero finds himself surrounded by ghostly figures, is all at once bombastic, grotesque, and terrifying. Not surprisingly, the music is adeptly handled by a perfect pairing of conductor and orchestra, who bring the mad frenzy to a rousing conclusion.

An added bonus on this CD is the short cantata La Mort de Cléopâtre written two years earlier for the Prix de Rome. Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci gives a dramatic and sensitive performance, thus rounding out this most satisfying disc, easily among the best currently available.

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