It’s splendid that these Nixa discs are once more back in the catalogue. I believe they saw some life back in the late 1980s with transfers by Mike Dutton but those have, in any case, long been unavailable. Scherchen takes on rather Stokowski-like repertoire here – Berlioz, Rimsky and Tchaikovsky and in the case of second composer, certainly, he proves a formidable guide. His Berlioz has divided critics for half a century and that’s not likely to change, however attractive the presentation – and it is extremely attractive with full colour artwork depicting the original LP sleeves, some excellent photographs and useful ancillary material in the form of critical commentary. This is one of Tahra’s increasingly valuable “book” sets – the four CDs and text and artwork housed in book form, ten inches tall.
This set is self-recommending. The names of Charles Munch and Hector Berlioz evoke the same respect and admiration as Bernstein/Mahler, Beecham/Delius, or Kempe/Strauss, and with good reason. For many years virtually any of these performances could be listed as a prime recommendation, even in a sometimes very crowded field, and the only point worth mentioning in connection with the latest reissue is the fact that RCA finally has gotten it right and included all of Munch's Boston Berlioz recordings. This means that, unlike the previous box, this one includes the stereo Roméo et Juliette (plus the first, mono one) as well as the second (and finer) Symphonie fantastique from 1962.
–David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Béatrice et Bénédict, Berlioz's last completed work, is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but the libretto, by the composer, dispenses with most of the intrigue of the original and reduces the plot to a single premise: Béatrice et Bénédict mask their affection for each other by squabbling, and then finally come to their senses and get married. Although designated an opera, it is closer in effect to an opéra comique because of its very extensive use of spoken dialogue.
The Beecham Messiah of 1959 is another early stereo recording that polarizes listeners, with understandable cause. Like the Ormandy Messiah (with its liberal cuts) or the Bernstein Messiah (which changes the order around), The Beecham recording incites friction on a couple of counts, the most egregious being the re-orchestration arranged by Sir Eugene Goossens.
With the release of this live recording of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, RCO Live celebrates the start of its collaboration with Daniele Gatti as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's seventh chief conductor on 9 September 2016. His unconventional take on this spectacular score evokes the astonishment audiences must have experienced at the time of the 1830 premiere. It is exactly this sense of surprise and freshness - founded on a thorough knowledge of the score - and the sheer joy of making music together that prompted the members of the RCO to choose Daniele Gatti as their new chief conductor.