Composer: Louis-Hector Berlioz
Performer: Olga Borodina – mezzo soprano
Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Size: 4.29 GB
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, La Mort de Cléopâtre
01. Rêveries. Passions (Largo – Allegro agitato ed appassionato assai)
02. Un bal (Valse: Allegro non troppo)
03. Scène aux champs (Adagio)
04. Marche au supplice (Allegretto non troppo)
05. Songe d’une nuit du Sabbat (Larghetto – Allegro – Ronde du Sabbat: Poco meno mosso)
06. La Mort de Cléopâtre – “C’en est donc fait”
07. La Mort de Cléopâtre – Méditation: “Grands Pharaons”
Valery Gergiev conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the Symphonie Fantastique of Hector Berlioz, along with the composer’s ”lyric scene” La Mort de Cleopatre, sung by Olga Borodina. This is the final of the 8 releases of Gergiev conducting released by Philips on SACD.
Valery Gergiev turns in a generally fine Symphonie fantastique, one that really heats up in the last two movements, as any good performance must. The March to the Scaffold has an aptly menacing character, with very clearly voiced timpani and plenty of panache to the brass playing. The finale begins quite quickly and never lets up; it has the special Berliozian frenzy that so many versions never manage to capture. Elsewhere the results are a bit more variable. The first movement goes quite well on the whole, barring a pointless slow-down at one point toward the end, but the second-movement waltz is strange, with oddly Stravinskian accents disrupting its flow and a general lack of rhythmic tension. However Gergiev does find pretty much the ideal tempo for the slow movement, and the oboe and English horn solos have an appealingly plaintive, pastoral character.
La Mort de Cléopatre makes a generous bonus, but not in this performance. Without getting hung up on the details, Gergiev certainly conducts it well enough, but Olga Borodina simply has the wrong voice for the part: thick, heavy, and often unsteady. She sounds dead before the music even begins–okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but compared to singers like Jessye Norman, Véronique Gens, or Janet Baker, she captures neither the nobility of the Egyptian queen nor the pathos of her predicament. Happily, given that many discs offer just the symphony, we can ignore this particular “bonus”, and the rating reflects this. Philips offers vivid live sonics that project the unique timbres of the Vienna Philharmonic horns and strings particularly well, though the harps in the second movement should sound more seductive. Fantastique collectors will find plenty to enjoy here.