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An Orchestral Trip

26 MAR 08 VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

Leonard Bernstein once referred to Berlioz's kaleidoscopic "Symphonie Fantastique," which was inspired by an opium-induced dream, as "the first psychedelic musical trip" -- written well over a century before the Doors and the Beatles conveyed their hallucinatory experiences in song.

The Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi, who became music director of the Cincinnati Symphony in 2001 (his contract runs until 2010), chose Berlioz's famous work as the centerpiece of his first Telarc recording with the orchestra, also available in SACD format. This vividly programmatic symphony by a lovesick composer was inspired by Berlioz's deep and initially unrequited passion for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, who he first encountered portraying Juliet and Ophelia.

Järvi's sparkling interpretation is notable for its colorful detail and bristling orchestral textures, long, elegant phrasing, lush string playing and clear woodwind solos in the "Scene in the Country." In the frenzied "Dream of the Witches Sabbath," Järvi vividly evokes the colorful burlesque tableau of monsters and sorcerers.

The disc also includes an eloquent rendition of the Love Scene from Berlioz's "Roméo et Juliette," a musical evocation of the famous Balcony Scene.