Bergen Philharmonic Surprises with Berlioz

  • Performance
  • User Ratings (1 Votes)

Berlioz: Harold in Italy (Hyperion)

The pianist Emanuel Ax remarked the other day that performance quality has risen so high in his lifetime that you hardly ever encounter a sub-standard orchestra. On the evidence of this release Bergen in Norway, the rainiest city on earth, boasts a Philharmonic that could be mistaken on a dull day for one in Berlin. Playing Berlioz, grand master of the art of orchestration, Bergen come through with maximum points in all departments and a deep coherence across the spectrum. My only quibble is why the local engineers record the orchestra at a level so low that I had to adjust the volume twice upwards.

The major satisfaction here is Lawrence Power’s viola interaction with the Norwegians on a meander through sun-kissed, brigand-ridden Italian terrain. Power belies his name in holding back his full blast for dramatic peaks, and all the more effective for that. Andrew Manze dances through the score with the lightest of batons at a tempo two and a half minutes faster than Toscanini’s, which is going some. I boiled an egg in the time saved.

The bonuses are real treasures – Plaisir d’amour in Berlioz’s orchestration (who knew?) and a Berlioz-tweaked version of Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. There is no better road test of an orchestra than unfamiliar Berlioz. Bergen skip through these morsels without getting their toes wet.

Sign on to the blogfeed:

Visit the website:


About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.