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This monumental work of French Romanticism is one of the essential landmarks in the career of any conductor. The quality of Berlioz’s orchestration and questions of timbre and the ideal instrumental forces lie at the core of the approach of Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna Brugge, who are increasingly drawn to French composers and especially to their precise, shimmering orchestral textures.
Surprisingly enough, it was the influence of the master orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov on Ravel that made Jos van Immerseel want to tackle such pieces as Bolero and La Valse in a recording singled out by the press in 2006 for its hypnotic power and the quality of the timbres and phrasing.
Over long months of preparation, the musicians steeped themselves in Berlioz’s music, his Treatise on instrumentation and his Memoirs, and gradually formed an image of the construction of this masterpiece in which poetry, imagination, lyricism, rhythmic invention and evocative power form the basis of a purely Romantic language of great subtlety.
The choice of period instruments (double basses from the period just after the instrument was modernised, French ‘omnitonic’ clarinets by Müller, ‘ordinary’ flutes from before the invention of the Boehm system, valved horns with crooks to avoid transposition, an ophicleide, an Érard harp, timpani with a central screw played with the sticks specifically called for by Berlioz, two Érard pianos to provide low harmonics in imitation of bells in the Dies irae of the Songe d’une nuit de sabbat), familiarity with Berlioz’s Treatise on instrumentation and Pierre Baillot’s L’Art de jouer du violon (notably with respect to vibrato), and respect for the composer’s dynamics constitute the principal bases for the sound world of this interpretation, which is at once refined in its Classical style and haunted by the pungent timbres of the brass and of those diabolical clarinets, abyssal bells, and rattling death-march timpani.
‘The result may be regarded as surprising and unexpected. Every moment of the performance testifies to the musical and technical mastery of the interpreters and their understanding of the grammar of this music, but also reflects their passion for and fascination with it.’ Jos van Immerseel
Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
I. Reveries: Largo - Passions: Allegro agitato e appassionato assai
II. Un Bal (Valse): Allegro non troppo
III. Scene aux Champs: Adagio
IV. Marche au Supplice: Allegretto non troppo
V. Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat: Larghetto - Allegro
Hector Berlioz: Le carnaval romain, Op. 9
Le carnaval romain (Roman Carnaval), Op. 9
The Independent on Sunday
24th January 2010
“The forces are small, the sound translucent in Rêveries/Passions and Un Bal, brittle and dusty in the Marche au Supplice. Two Erard pianos replace the bells in Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat, an odd, alluring sound. Scène aux Champs is particularly poetic”
24th January 2010
“...it is the sheer raw clarity of every line and colour in these Flemish players’ performance, and its effect on the rhythms, that strikes you, especially in their revelatory account of the opening movement.”
28th January 2010
“Immerseel's approach, his choice of tempi and phrasing, are relatively conservative...but the raw edge that the period instruments bring to Berlioz's soundworld is often viscerally exciting, with a pair of ophicleides adding a feral growl to the brass bass lines”
13th March 2010
“Wiry strings, characterful woodwinds, an original Erard harp and pianos tolling instead of bells — all reasons for pinning the ears back as you listen to the Symphonie Fantastique from Jos van Immerseel’s esteemed period instrument orchestra.”
“For its combination of unique orchestral size and recording quality, and overall Werktreu-ness, this new performance sits easily alongside, maybe even slightly ahead of, the other authentic contenders.”
“'Fantastique' indeed as the symphony has all its original colours via the stunning period instruments of Anima Eterna”
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