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Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Robin Ticciati

Recorded at Usher Hall, Edinburgh UK 7th- 10th October 2011

Linn CKD 400

The Independent's Anna Picard has highlighted the recording of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Robin Ticciati) as a not-to-be-missed release in her 'Sounds of 2012' column.

Maybe Robin Ticciati, who has chosen Symphonie Fantastique to begin his recording career as Principal Conductor of this orchestra, may begin to find its Chamber Orchestra categorisation something of an embarrassment?


1) a smaller-sized orchestra of about fifty players or fewer, which changed very little in composition during the course of the 20th century, is called a chamber orchestra.

2) Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is scored for an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets (1st doubling E-flat clarinet), 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones, 2 ophicleides (originally one ophicleide and one serpent/ 2 tubas, 2 pairs of timpani, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, bells in C and G, 2 harps, and strings.

I haven't found out how many strings Berlioz used and would have expected, but many/most performances use a large symphony orchestra and Symphonie Fantastique is often programmed as something of a special occasion.

No doubt moden studio recording techniques render full orchestras less necessary, and this from Linn may serve as a demonstration? The sound is magnificent and detail in the performance is impeccable. You may have several versions already, and I will leave you to make comparisons and hopefully let Musical Pointers know what you think.

The other choice is between CD and DVD, which is becoming ubiquitous and boosted by the coverage of major orchestral concerts on Sky Arts 2. Conductors vary hugely in "watchability"; the best for home viewing usually the less flamboyant; with some you may find yourselves closing your eyes and denigrating the medium as inferior. Several others will correct that generalisation.

Regarding "special occasion", my favourite Symphonie Fantastique experience in recent years was unquestionably the Berlin Philharmonic/Jansson European Concert in the historic Church of St. Irene in Istanbul before a rapt cosmopolitan audience.

Peter Grahame Woolf