John Eliot Gardiner conducts his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique through two concerts of Berlioz compositions. The 'Symphonie Fantastique' is an orchestral tour de force which is central to the repertoire of every major orchestra. It is performed here on original instruments in its original 1830s orchestration in the atmospheric old hall of the Paris Conservatoire where it was first heard. Also included is the first performance of the newly discovered 'Messe Solennelle' with the Monteverdi choir. Written when Berlioz was just 20 years old, it was thought lost until its rediscovery in 1992. The first performance of this large-scale Mass for 150 years was filmed in London's Westminster Cathedral. Gardiner's period-instrument orchestra gives characteristically idiomatic performances of these seminal works (which are also linked thematically, through Berlioz's extensive re-use of material from the Messe).
…Elsewhere the whole kit of an old-instrument Fantastique – pungent brass timbres, shrieking clarinets, scary “bells” (the pianos) and death-march timpani – makes its mark. 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.
Despite the efforts of conductors such as Roger Norrington and John Eliot Gardiner from the 1980s onwards, period instrument performances of Berlioz in general and the Symphonie Fantastique in particular are relatively rare on disc; currently, the only rivals to Jos van Immerseel's new version with his Bruges-based orchestra seem to be those by Gardiner and Norrington themselves. Immerseel's approach, his choice of tempi and phrasing, are relatively conservative – the account of the exuberant Roman Carnival overture is positively staid – 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.
A new live recording of Bach’s Lutheran Mass in F Major (BWV223), Cantata "Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (BWV 151) and Magnificat in E flat (BWV243a), recorded in London at the end of a European tour in December 2016.
This recording presents–almost–Berlioz's original thoughts on this very complicated opera (which went through more than a dozen versions, with additions and subtractions, in the composer's lifetime), although conductor John Nelson also adds an aria or two Berlioz later added, making it somewhat different from the version recorded by Philips under Sir Colin Davis a little over 30 years ago.