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** BERLIOZ: "Symphonie Fantastique"; "Tristia." Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, Pierre Boulez, cond. (Deutsche Grammophon)

January 04, 1998|Timothy Mangan

Boulez has his doubts about the "Symphonie Fantastique," which he voices in the liner notes--something about the "container" being more interesting than the "content"--and which are plainly evident in the performance. We get spiffed-up textures, stratified dynamics, elegant, crisp phrasing and clean execution, but the emotional and theatrical elements of the score--the sighing phrases, the explosive passions, the grotesqueries of hell--get underplayed, as if these were beneath Boulez's interest. It all has a certain fascination, but the container is only half full. The Cleveland Orchestra performs with a chamber music delicacy and point. The rarely performed "Tristia," a triptych for chorus and orchestra, is the makeweight; it includes a wistful setting of "The Death of Ophelia" for women's chorus and a thundering "Funeral March for the Last Scene of 'Hamlet.' "

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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