Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique – Dimitri Mitropoulos, New York Philharmonic – Speakers Corner Records

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique Opus 14 – New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos Conductor Columbia Masterworks MS 6030 (1958)/Speakers Corner Records 180-gram stereo vinyl, 50:16 ****:

Speakers Corner Records releases a vinyl upgrade of Hector Berlioz’s crowning achievement. 

As romanticism impacted 19th Century classical music, it appeared to be a rebuttal to the rationalized industrial revolution and Age Of Enlightenment. From the late 18th century to approximately 1860, there were three separate periods of this genre. Its most renowned composers included Ludwig Von Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Guisseppi Verdi and Jean Sibelius. One of the lesser known composers of this era was Hector Berlioz. He defied custom with his symphonic work, that utilized sweeping instrumentation, while distilling emotional overtones. Critics acknowledge the dichotomy of “formlessness” and “symmetry” in his beloved work, Symphonie Fantastique Op. 14., Berlioz embarked on a dark journey. Leonard Bernstein famously alluded to the psychedelic shading, with the opium-related contexts. Written in 1830, it represented the zenith of Berlioz’s career and traditionally utilizes over 90 instruments.

Speakers Corner Records has released a 180-gram stereo re-mastering of Symphonie Fantastique performed by the New York Philharmonic (Dimitri Mitropoulos/conductor). This work epitomizes the boldness and emotional depth of Berlioz and the Romantic movement. The orchestra translates the myriad, fragile psyche of the composer with orchestration that includes oboes, harps, tympani, brass and two harps in a musical potpourri. With five movements (in contrast to the conventional four), the listener is taken on a wild fever dream. The first movement (“Reveries, Passions”) reflects the opium-enhanced imagery with moving lyricism anchored by strings. There are bursts of playfulness and crisp accents that underscore the inherent anxiety. The woodwinds offer a soothing counterpoint to the urgent modulation of the strings. When the full orchestra intones, it is riveting. In the “Second Movement” (A Ball), the sensitive protagonist seeks out his love and a two-harp interlude captures this moment perfectly.

Portrait Berlioz

Hector Berlioz

With a more hushed feel, the “Third Movement (Scene In The Country)” explores the lightness of the pastoral ambiance, interpreted through an oboe/French horn exchange. The “theme” is rendered by solo flute and strings. As the femme fatale returns, the orchestra re-introduces melancholy and impending despair. Again, the ability of the music to represent the “voice” of the subjects is illuminating. Foreboding pervades the “Fourth Movement (March To The Gallows)” as a march tempo with occasionally booming percussion and dramatic articulation define the musical journey. For a brief moment, a woodwind/pizzicato string interlude interrupts the somber processional that builds to the hero’s demise. The “Fifth Movement (Dream Of The Witches)” shifts back to unsettling anguish. Perhaps the most complex section, there are compelling instrumental combinations including two different clarinets ( C and Eb), a multiple  bassoon/tuba pairing and bells.It is a nightmarish vision that reiterates the insecurity and frailness of the human spirit.

Speakers Corner records has done its customary excellent job in re-mastering this performance of Symphonie Fantastique to 180-gram vinyl. The stereo separation is balanced with deftness. The integrity of the Columbia Masterworks “high-fidelity” analogue engineering has been maintained. This pressing is excellent with no hisses or pops.  

Side 1: First Movement: Reveries, Passions (Largo C minor, 4/4; Allegro agitato e appassionato assai, C major, 4/4; Second Movement: A Ball (Allegro non troppo, A major, 3/8

Side 2: Third Movement: Scene In The Country (Adagio, F major, 6/8); Fourth Movement: (March To The Gallows (Allegretto non trope, G minor and B-flat major, 4/4); Fifth Movement: Dream Of The Witches’ Sabbath (Larghetto, C major, 4/4 and Allegro, E-flat major, C minor, and C major, 6/8)   

—Robbie Gerson

For more information, please visit vendor Acoustic Sounds website:

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Symphony Fanstique, Mitropoulos, NY Phil, Album Cover


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