This is the debut release of Italian conductor Daniele Gatti's tenure as the seventh chief conductor of the great Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.
I've followed Gatti's career for a long time, since he conducted the Royal Philharmonic many years ago. Always an interesting musician, he managed a difficult orchestra and guided them to some wonderful recordings. His RPO Mahler 5 is a famous recording.
I was quite surprised at this appointment. Very prestigious. I figured Gatti as more top guest conductor. That said, he is in demand with all the top European bands.
So, how'd he do with Berlioz? Not well, unfortunately. Of course the playing is gorgeous, but the recording is a little reticent and the interpretation far too fussy. I know the initial idée fixe can take all sorts of rubato but Gatti yanks it around like he's pulling salt water taffy. There's no flow. It stops and starts. And begins at half the previous tempo, which sounds silly, not musical. The repeat fares better but Gatti doing the repeat has to negotiate the actual second ending and keep the tempo fairly steady. The other movements fare better but still suffer from eccentric touches.
Un Bal swirls and swoons. The playing is gorgeous. It even ends on a musical whimper. I get Gatti's purpose, but again his use of rubato can ruin the musical line.
The Scène aux champs is suitably laconic -- Berlioz says so much with so little. Once again, the RCO's playing is spectacular. They certainly want to impress their new boss.
The final two movements play out as Berlioz intended. A shock here, a jolt there. All the effects are implemented by Gatti and the recording finally allows some real dynamic range. Watch your speakers at the opening of the March.
There are just too many fantastic Fantastiques to recommend this new one. Gatti put real thought into it, but it must be considered a failure.
In the meantime, get Rattle and his Berlin band on EMI. Beautifully played and recorded. You'll get Berlioz' histrionics, but under control of conductor and orchestra. Want a little more craziness?Gergiev and his LSO on LSOLive take you for a hell of a ride.
1. Rêveries. Passions
2. Un bal
3. Scène aux champs
4. Marche au supplice
5. Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat
Total playing time 57:30
Recorded Live at Concertgebouw Amsterdam on 31 March and 1 & 3 April 2016
Catalogue No. RCO 16006
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD