Symphonie Fantastique Suits the Naked Classics Treatment

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Berlioz:’s Symphonie Fantastique: Naked Classics Paul Rissmann (presenter), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Thomas Søndergård (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 16.11.2012 (SRT)

This year’s season of Naked Classics kicks off with a work that is a prime candidate for this sort of treatment. Symphonie Fantastique has all the elements that Paul Rissmann’s format is so good at showcasing: a good story, an interesting structure and brilliant orchestration that benefits from being spotlighted. I’ve always been a fan of his style, but I think the union of style and work fitted so well as to make this one of his most successful presentations. He highlighted individual orchestral heroes, such as the oboe and cor anglais, the timpani and the bassoons, and his visual style helped the music’s structure to fit together well in the minds of newcomers. He also had the right balance of background and exploration.

Thomas Søndergård’s conducting style fits this work very well too. An athlete on the podium, he was most at home in the more extrovert moments, especially the finale (whose witch’s dance he described as “groovy”) which, together with the March to the Scaffold, really caught fire. If there wasn’t as much energy in the other movements, they were kept afloat by some strong orchestral playing, especially from the strings who paled down for the slow themes of the Scene in the Countryside and the opening movement’s introduction, but added a fulsome touch of glamour to the Ball.

Naked Classics returns in February with The Firebird and in May with a potted Wagner Ring. For more details click here.

Simon Thompson